Wednesday 14 September 2016

Free National Archives of Ireland records sets added to FindmyPast

FindmyPast ( has added a further set of records from the National Archives of Ireland (, which will be free to access. The following datasets are now available, with their descriptions as given on the site - brace yourself if you're Irish, you're going to be busy...!

Valuation Office Books, 1848–1860

This collection houses several types of manuscript records from the Valuation Office in Ireland: field books, house books, quarto books, rent books, survey books, and tenure books. All of these books helped to inform the publication of Griffith’s Valuation, which was a comprehensive assessment of the rental value of Irish lands and property from the mid-1820s to the mid-1850s. The assessment of land and buildings in Ireland was intended to aid in the re-evaluating of local taxes, which were at that time unevenly applied.

These records were compiled in three waves, each with its own distinct parameters for assessment, prior to the publication of Griffith’s Valuation. These three methods for assessment produced different records. During the first valuation, house books would list the names of occupiers while field books recorded details solely related to soil quality. The nature of these two books changed slightly by the third valuation where both were including information on occupiers.

While the house and field books were by far the most prolific, other manuscript records were also compiled. Tenure books detailed the landlord and lease information, including the lessor’s name. Rent books recorded rents paid and quarto books covered towns.

Ireland, Original Will Registers 1858-1920

The Ireland, Original Will Registers 1858-1920 come from the will books created by the district courts and held by the National Archives of Ireland. The collection includes wills from Northern Ireland until 1917. Prior to 1847, the Church of Ireland was the testamentary authority in Ireland. Wills were proved in the ecclesiastical courts of the Church. However, after The Probate Act was passed in 1847, the power to grant probate and to issue letters of administration was given to twelve registries in Ireland: The Principal Registry in Dublin and eleven District Registries – Armagh, Ballina, Belfast, Cavan, Cork, Kilkenny, Limerick, Londonderry, Mullingar, Tuam, and Waterford.

Principal and District Registries jurisdictions

The jurisdictions of the courts stretched across multiple county lines and different parishes within the same county could be within the jurisdiction of different courts. Below we have listed each probate district and the county it covered.

Armagh – Armagh, Fermanagh, Monaghan, and Tyrone
Ballina – Sligo and Mayo
Belfast – Antrim and Down
Cavan – Cavan, Leitrim, and Longford
Cork – Cork and Kerry.
Dublin (Principal) – Dublin, Kildare, Meath, and Wicklow (The Principal Registry also had authority over large estates outside of the listed counties.)
Kilkenny – Carlow, Laois (Queen’s), and Kilkenny
Limerick – Clare, Kerry, Limerick, and Tipperary
Londonderry – Donegal, Londonderry (Derry), and Tyrone
Mullingar – Leinster and Offaly (King’s)
Tuam – Roscommon and Galway
Waterford – Tipperary, Waterford, and Wexford

Ireland, Catholic Qualification & Convert Rolls 1701-1845

Under the Penal laws, Catholics and Protestant dissenters in Ireland were deemed to be treasonous by default. Catholics were not allowed to hold public office, intermarry with anyone from the Church of Ireland, hold firearms, serve in the armed forces, inherit property, study abroad, vote, or become members of Parliament or the legal profession.

Under these conditions, those who had most to lose, mainly the middle classes and Catholic aristocracy, considered taking drastic action. By swearing an oath before a court pledging allegiance to the British Crown, certain privileges could be retained. However, many chose the drastic action of converting to the established religion, at least in name, thus qualifying them for full rights under the law.

Conversion to the established church also had to be sworn in a court of law, which means that in both the qualification and convert rolls you will find people listed by the court they appeared before. The courts listed are generally the local county town Assizes, although conversions then had to be lodged in Chancery. The procedure for conversion was to renounce Catholicism in front of a clergyman and congregation in open service. The convert would then receive a certificate from the diocesan bishop, which was then enrolled in Chancery. Before 1782, the diocesan bishop’s certificate was mandatory, however, following 1782, conversion was deemed complete as long as the individual converting received the sacrament from a minister of the Church of Ireland, took the oath before said minister, and filed a certificate to that effect in Chancery.

The convert rolls themselves were destroyed in the Four Courts fire of 1922, but luckily, they had been calendared and recorded elsewhere. The calendars are in two volumes: volume 1 covers the years 1789 to 1838 and volume 2 from 1800 to 1838. Most people enrolled in Dublin.

While most of the converts were men, there are about 1,500 women named in the rolls. You will also find names that are not of Irish origin as naturalised citizens were likewise subject to the Penal Laws. In fact, the names of naturalised Irish citizens take up the majority of the later records that occurred after the Catholic emancipation, which removed the restrictions on Irish Catholics.

The qualification rolls make up the majority of the records and arose as a result of the various Catholic Relief Acts from 1778, which lifted many of the Penal Laws around land ownership. But to avail themselves of these new rights, Catholics and Dissenters had to appear before a court and swear allegiance to the British monarch. So just like conversions, these oaths were sworn in front of a judge of one of the various courts (usually Assize), following which such petitioners were judged to have qualified to avail themselves of these rights.

Ireland Merchant Navy Crew Lists 1863-1921

These are the records of the Irish merchant navy held by the National Archives of Ireland. Every year, each ship registered in Ireland had to submit a report to the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen (RGSS), which was responsible for keeping the records for the Merchant Navy. The records are extensive and provided detailed information regarding each crew member. Crew members were not only from Ireland but also from around the world. You will find natives of Norway, Russia, Sweden, America and Germany, to name a few. The records are fully indexed and can be searched easily by name. Prior to this indexing, you would have needed to know the name of the ship your ancestor worked on and the port of registration in order to find your ancestor’s name.

The Ireland Merchant Navy Crew Lists includes thousands of records for female crew members. For family historians, it can be difficult to find early employment records for female ancestors since traditionally women worked in the home. Ships began to employ women as stewardesses in the later part of the nineteenth century. As services on board ships expanded, women were employed as laundresses, matrons, hairdressers, catering personnel and shop assistants. Maritime career opportunities were restricted because women did not receive additional maritime training beyond their assigned roles. Today, women still only make up a small percentage of the maritime work force.

These same records will be freely available also shortly via

(With thanks to Claire Santry for the original announcement via


For details on my genealogy guide books, including A Beginner's Guide to British and Irish Genealogy, A Decade of Irish Centenaries: Researching Ireland 1912-1923Discover Scottish Church Records (2nd edition), Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit

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