Nineteenth Century Sources

Report of Irish Education Inquiry 1826

The appendix to the second report, contains details of all parochial schools and includes the names of teachers.

Ordnance Survey Letters 1834-1841

In 1842 a Committee set up by Parliament, recommended that a complete survey and valuation of Ireland be undertaken. The purpose of the survey was to redefine townland boundaries and, by a national valuation of land and buildings, make the striking of the rate more equitable.

John O·Donovan, who is best known for having edited the Annals of the Four Masters was employed by the Ordnance Survey, to ascertain accurately the old Irish names for townlands, villages, etc. In each area he collected historical information, he paid particular attention to surnames. The Ordnance Survey Letters were written, mostly by John O·Donovan between March 1834 and September 1841, they do not cover Antrim, Cork or Tyrone. His comments in the form of letters, which he sent to Dublin, have been typed in bookform for each county. These letters are available in the National Library of Ireland, in the Gilbert Library Dublin and the County Libraries should have copies for their own area.

Return of Voters 1830 -1840

The return of voters registered in each borough, stating names and address's is contained in volume 11 of the Reports from Committees (Parliamentary Papers) 1837.

Tenants Under ‚5 1837

The names and addresses of tenants holding tenements under ‚5 yearly value is also in above.

Commissioners of Public Instruction 1835

This report lists the names of teachers by parishes.

Incumbered Estate Records 1837-1896

In the aftermath of the Famine, the Government established the Incumbered Estate Court to deal with bankrupt estates. The petitioner before the court had to prepare details of the estates, including the tenancies. During the period 1850-58, 8,000 estates were sold and information on such estates had to be prepared.

The Public Records Office has, a set of Incumbered Estate Court and Landed Estate Court Rentals. There are 148 volumes with indexes for the years 1850 - 85. The Public Records Office in Belfast has, 83 volumes of printed rentals of the encumbered Estate Court for the years 1849 - 58. The National Library of Ireland has records for the years 1837-96 and there is an index covering the years 1850-64.

Estate Records

The outcome of all the confiscations, plantations and settlement of Ireland was the survival of some great mediaeval and later plantation estates. These estates were finally broken up by the Lands Acts and the Incumbered Estates Court. The collections of estate records may contain the following :

Rent rolls : which normally list the tenants by townland;

Leases : which give the tenants name and perhaps those of his children, with their ages.

Rent ledgers : showing what each tenant had to pay in rent;

Maps : which plot tenants holdings on a scale of about 6' to 1 mile;

Wages books : will contain the names of labourers, servants and gardeners who may not be tenants;

Land agents note-books : may contain details of a tenant and his family;

Land agents letters : may refer to persons on the estate or in the area.

If you do not know the name of a local landlord, you may be able to find it from the Primary Valuation of Tenements.

Estate records can be found in the National Library, the National Archives and the Public Records Office in Belfast.

Poor Law Records 1838-1848

Poor law records are the archives of the Boards of Guardians who administered the poor law in Ireland from 1838 to 1948. The admission and discharge registers list those entering and leaving the workhouse; there are registers of births and deaths and of those receiving outdoor relief. All these records provide lists of names which could well prove useful, particularly for the poor who are unlikely to be recorded elsewhere. There were also infirmaries and fever hospitals attached to the workhouses and there are lists of inmates available. The records for the 27 Poor Law Unions that covered the six counties are available in the Public Records Office in Belfast.

Wills - 1857

Wills, by their nature are a useful sources of genealogical information. During the period prior to 1857, the ecclesiastical courts of the Church of Ireland (for it was the established church), had jurisdiction in such matters.

Each diocese had a Consistorial Court, it was this court that granted probate. If a deceased had property of more than ‚5 in a second diocese, then the matter had to go to the Prerogative Court, which was under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Armagh.

The National Archives have available in manuscript form, the indexes to the Consistorial Administration Bonds. The indexes are arranged alphabetically and give the testator's address, perhaps his occupation, and the year in which probate was granted.

The Probate Act, 1857 abolished the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts. it established a principal registry in Dublin and eleven district registries.

The National Archives have available alphabetically arranged, yearly calendars to wills and administrations, which are printed. The indexes give the name, address and occupation of the deceased, they also give the place and date of death, together with information on the person (usually a relative) to whom probate or administration was granted and the value of the estate. A consolidated index for the years 1858 -77 is in the National Archives and this index is being completed up to 1900 with the encouragement of the Ulster Historical Foundation.

Many wills were destroyed in 1922, fortunately copies of probated wills had been prepared in the district probate registries and they serve as a substitute.

The Public Records Office in Belfast has copies of wills from the district probate registries of Armagh, Belfast and Derry, which cover Ulster (excluding Cavan) but includes part of Louth.

The records of wills and administration now in the National Archives include the following.

(a) Original wills and administration papers lodged in the Principal Registry since 1904, and in most District Registries since 1900 (indexed in the annual Calendars; wills and administration papers lodged in Belfast and Derry and most of tho

(a) Original wills and administration papers lodged in the Principal Registry since 1904, and in most District Registries since 1900 (indexed in the annual Calendars; wills and administration papers lodged in Belfast and Derry and most of those lodged in Armagh are in Public Records Office, Belfast)

(b) Will books containing copies of most wills proved in District Registries since 1858, and of some wills proved in the Principal Registry in 1874, 1876, 1891 and 1896 (indexed in the annual Calendars; the will books for Armagh, Belfast and Derry are in Public Records Office, Belfast)

(c) Grant books containing copies of grants made in the Principal Registry since 1922 and in 1878, 1883, 1891 and 1893, and of most grants made in the District Registries since 1858 (indexed in the annual Calenders; the grant books for Armagh and Belfast up to 1885 are in the National Archives; later grant books for Armagh, Belfast and Derry are in Public Records Office, Belfast.

(d) Betham·s abstracts of wills proved in the Prerogative Court before 1800, of administrations granted in the Prerogative Court before 1802, and of wills proved in the Kildare Diocesan Court before 1827 (indexed in Vicar·s Index, the Indexes to Prerogative Grants, and the Index to Wills of the Diocese of Kildare reprinted from the Journal of Kildare Archaeological Society, IV, No. 6. (1905))

(e) Inland Revenue registers of wills and administrations, 1828-39 (indexed in separate indexes which cover the period 1828-79; for the years 1840-57 these indexes give details which do not appear in the general indexes referred to above)

(f) Charitable Donations and Bequests will extract books containing abstracts of wills which made charitable bequests, 1800-1961 (there is a separate card index for the period 1800-58)

(g) Other copies and abstracts of wills and administrations for the periods both before and after 1858 (indexed in the main testamentary card index)

School Records

In 1831 National School were established by the Government. School registers may contain the following information : name, age, date of entry, parent's names, their address and occupation. The Public Records Office has some such records. The Records of the Commissioners for National Education, covering the period 1831 - 1922 provide a record of payments to teachers.

Papal Army Volunteers 1860

The Unification of Italy threatened the temporal power of the Pope in the Papal States, many Irish joined the Papal Army. The 59th Report of the Deputy Keeper of Public Records at pages 85-105, contains the names and addresses of Irish volunteers for the Papal Army 1860.

Return of the owners of land 1876

An outcome of confiscations of Irish land was the creation of very large estates. A list of landowners was published in 1876: return of owners of land of one acre and upwards, in the several counties, counties of cities, and counties of towns in Ireland, to which is added a summary for each province and for all Ireland, it has been re-published by the Genealogical Publishing Company (1970). There were 19 estates of between 50,000 and 160,000 acres, 254 estates of between 10,000 and 50,000 acres and 418 estates of between 5,000 and 10,000 acres. The large family estates were finally broken up under the Land Acts and the Incumbered Estates Court.

Land Purchase Acts 1885, 1903, 1923

The Land Commission which was established in 1881, was given powers in 1885 in relation to land purchase. Money was advanced to tenants under the various Acts to purchase their holdings. The Commission had to satisfy themselves as to the ability of the tenant to repay the annuities. Inspectors travelled the countryside and reports were drawn up. The Schedule of Tenancies is a record of the sitting tenants on the estate at the time of purchase and is accompanied by a reference map.

Ireland Memorial Record 1914 - 1918

This list the names of Irish soldiers who died in the British Army during the Great War. The information given consists of name, date of death, hometown and regiment. The Gilbert Library has a copy.

Free Citizens of Dublin

From 1192 until 1918, admission to the ´Freedom of the City of Dublinµ meant that one was entitled to vote in municipal and parliamentary elections. The Freedom of the City was confined to a restricted group of people, in general to qualify it was necessary to have been born within the city boundaries, those who were ´of the Irish Nationµ were excluded.

The lists of the Free Citizens of Dublin contain in the region of 45,000 names and it is possible to trace several generations of old Dublin families through such lists.

The Dublin Corporation Archives, in the City Hall, Dame Street, Dublin, holds the lists of Free Citizens of Dublin. The Dublin Corporation Archives is open Monday to Friday, from 10 a m to 5 p m (it closes for lunch from 1 p m to 2.15 p m ).

Gravestone inscriptions

A visit to a local cemetery may provide some genealogical information, and will certainly give an indication of the surnames in a locality. The recognition of particular Christian name, or group of Christian names in a family may be an indication of a distant relative and the present families could then be located.

Most families could not have been able to afford a headstone in the past, so the likelihood is that no information may be obtainable. Many older headstones have been weathered an will prove difficult to read. Information obtained from gravestones has been published, mostly in local historical journals. At the present time many young unemployed people are as part of a F.A.S. programme recording such inscriptions.

Register of Electors

The register of electors which is revised annually, could prove a useful genealogical tool. It can help a person locate those who may be distantly related to themselves. Sections of the register for a particular area are available at local libraries, post offices and police stations.

Directories and Almanacs

It was common, particularly during the Nineteenth Century for town directories to be issued. The earliest directories confine themselves to merchants and traders the later ones list all householders. All directories should be available in the National Library of Ireland, a good selection is available in the Public Records Office and County Libraries.


It was the practice in the past, as well as at the present time for notices of birth, marriage and death to appear in the newspapers. The National Library of Ireland has the best available collection of Irish newspapers. The British Library in London also has Irish newspapers. The County Libraries should also be inquired of. The Public Records Office in Belfast has produced a booklet in conjunction with the Library Association on the availability of northern newspapers from 1737 to the present time.

Further sources

Further sources worth consideration are : Court records; Government records; Heritage Centres records; Jury lists; Local History Society Journals; Memoriam cards; Military, Naval and Police(R. I. C.) records; and Parliamentary records.


Society for the study of Nineteenth Century Ireland

Seventeenth Century Sources

Eighteenth Century Sources

Australian Transportation Records

Additional Genelaogical Sources