The Local Government Act of 2001 provided that every local authority in Ireland had to make arrangements for the proper management, custody, care and conservation of local records and local archives. Before then (with the noble exceptions of Cork, Dublin and Limerick), local record-keeping in Ireland was piecemeal at best.
The imposition of this new role did not have an immediate or uniform effect. Some councils just added the new job to the in-tray of their long-suffering county library. Others went about setting up an archives, but only for the council’s own records. But many, painfully, with prodding and funding assistance from central government, eventually set up dedicated archives with a broad remit, to serve as a focal point for local studies, and to preserve and make available local records.
The fruits of the policy are only now becoming apparent, at least to me. An entire network of new Irish record-holding institutions is coming into existence. As ever in Ireland, when they’re good, they’re very very good. And when they’re bad … we’ll just move on in silence.
More recently, the best have begun to make collections available online, free, naturally. Here are some I’ve come across:
- Galway Archives has some wonderful online collections, including 1775 tenants’ lists from the Headford area;
- Mayo Library has a superb collection of estate maps online, including details of tenants from 1811 in Balla, Kilcolman and Mayo parishes;
- Tipperary Studies has an extraordinary set of 130 Tipperary rate books from the 1840s and early 1850s, predating Griffith and created in parallel with his Valuation;
- Cork Archives has the burial registers of five cemeteries in an around Cork city;
- Limerick Archives has the Mount St Lawrence Burial registers and its Local Studies sister site has an extraordinary mix of city and county material;
- Sligo Library has the Sligo Union Workhouse admissions and discharges register online (FindMyPast have a transcribed version);
- And of course Dublin City Archive has a fantastic (disclosure: I coded them) collection of heritage databases at databases.dublincity.ie.
Even where records are not searchable online, most of the new archives have excellent online lists of their records, many of which are only now coming to light: the estate records in Wexford, Waterford and Donegal, the Grand Jury records of Louth and Clare, the historic photographs and maps popping up everywhere.
To find the archive (if there is one) for the area you’re interested in, just google “[county] archives”.
God bless you, Section 80 of the Local Government Act, 2001.