Friday, 31 July 2015

Dublin's Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932 on FindmyPast

FindmyPast ( has released an important military record set for those with ancestors who were children born to soldiers within the British Army, but there are some deficiencies in the offering. As part of the new British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932 collection, it includes records for the Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932.

First, the announcement from FindmyPast:

British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932
Containing over 27,000 records, British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932 list the details of students and staff members at the Royal Military Asylum (RMA) in Chelsea and the Royal Hibernian Military School (RHMS) in Dublin. Both schools were founded by Royal Warrant during the Napoleonic wars to educate the orphans of British servicemen in the regular army. Upon reaching the age of 14, students, both male and female, were meant to leave the institution. Boys who chose not to enlist in the army and female students were placed in indentured apprenticeship programs. Not all apprenticeship appointments were local and several pupils were sent as far as Barbados and India.

The collection covers several individual record sets and each entry consists of a transcript of the original source material. RHMS records include information about students outside the normal admission details, such as whether they went on to enlist, what trade they were taught, and the name of their fathers’ regiments. A staff list from 1864 is also available to search. RMA records include apprentice ledgers covering 1803 to 1840 and enrolment ledgers of Army Schoolmasters covering 1847 to 1876. The RMA also kept ledgers of the offences and the corresponding punishments that were doled out to misbehaving students. Punishment Ledgers for 1847 are also available to search.

Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932
Containing nearly 10,000 records, Royal Hibernian Military School admissions 1847-1932 is a subset of British Army schoolchildren and schoolmasters 1803-1932. The records pertain specifically to students enrolled at the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin, Ireland. The School was opened at the end of the Seven Years War in 1769 by the philanthropic Hibernian Society with 90 boys and 50 girls in attendance. It was established in order to educate the orphaned children of members of the British armed forces in IrelandThe RHMS merged with the Duke of York’s Royal Military School in 1924.

Many of the school’s records were stored in London and destroyed during the London blitz in 1940. Surviving admissions registers are now in The National Archives and have been transcribed by Peter Goble. Each record consists of a transcript of the original source material. Admissions Include information about students outside of normal admission details, such as whether they went on to enlist, what trade they were taught, and the name of their fathers’ regiments. There are also names of various pupils captured from the 1911 Irish census and a staff list taken in 1864.

COMMENT: The RHMS records are a record source that I have previously examined at the National Archives in England (, as my three times great uncle Alexander William Halliday studied there from 1878. The institution was based in Dublin as a sister body to the English equivalent, the Duke of York's Royal Military School.

Alexander was born on August 16th 1866 on the island of Bermuda in the West Indies, the son of Corporal William Halliday, and his mother Teresa Mooney, but his early years remain something of a mystery just now. His father, a member of the 2nd battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Foot, passed away on Bermuda in January 1866, seven months before he was born. It seems that his mother returned to Ireland shortly after his birth and remarried to another corporal within the same battalion of the regiment, William John Burns, in a ceremony in Nenagh, Tipperary. After this the family seems to have moved to Dublin by 1871, then briefly to Belfast by 1873-1874, before a return to Dublin.

Aged just eleven years and eleven months Alexander William Halliday was admitted to the Royal Hibernian Military School in Dublin on August 1st 1878. The enrolment record is held at the National Archives (TNA: WO 143/22) and states his date of birth as August 16th 1866, his height as 4 foot 4 inches, his weight as 4 stone 8 pounds, his chest as 24.5 inches, and his religion as Established Church (Church of Ireland). By the time he left he had gained one mark for good conduct, and no trade had been learned by him. This is the information gleaned at the National Archives, from the original register. (Aged just 13 years and 11 months upon leaving the school, Alexander then officially joined the 48th Brigade on August 17th 1880, before later becoming a 14 year old private in the 1st Battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Foot, the Queen's Royals.)

The transcribed dataset, however, omits any information on his religious denomination, his good conduct mark or any useful trade learned. But this is the frustrating part - there is also no useful source information given for the original register, it is merely given as Royal Hibernian Military Schools admissions 1847-1932, with transcriptions by Peter Goble, whilst the email announcement mentions they were accessed at TNA, but with no references. Would it really hurt to ask Peter Goble for the relevant TNA references, or for the company to source them itself?

This is not meant as a criticism of Peter Goble, who I have never met - it's a great effort to have transcribed so much - it is a criticism of company that wants to be seen as one of the big players in the British genealogy scene, and yet cannot seem able to understand one of the very basics of genealogical research, which is for genealogists to understand where materially has originally been sourced from. If the transcripts are incomplete (and there may well be very valid reasons why that is the case), or indeed erroneous, it is imperative to be able to know where the original source is so that it can be further consulted. Rant over...

Also released from FindmyPast:

Norfolk parish registers browse
The ability to browse through more than 300 years of parish registers has just been added to our collection of Norfolk parish records. Containing more than 5,300 pages of baptism, marriage, bans, and burial records from Church of England parishes, the Norfolk registers date back to 1538 and pre date civil registration.

Most of the records are handwritten so you may find incorrect spellings or find them hard to read. Some registers have suffered damage over the centuries so some pages may be water or heat damaged – or even nibbled by mice. The information recorded has varied over the years, but parish records can provide more information than simply confirmation of the event. Information also varies according to which event is being recorded.

UPDATE: The new Norfolk set is a browsable database of original images.


For details on my genealogy guide books, including my recently released Discover Irish Land Records and Down and Out in Scotland: Researching Ancestral Crisis, please visit


  1. Re the Norfolk records - they're images of the original parish records, not transcriptions. I spent a very happy few hours yesterday digging up images for my family.

  2. Couldn't agree with you more on the bizarre lack of proper source citations on Find My Past? There are 2 topics on their Feedback Forum relating to this which have gained 500 votes between them but they are just labelled "Started"? I've cast my maximum votes for them both - let's all get on there and do the same and they might stop ignoring it?

    1. I can't find the topics on's Feedback forums.

    2. Apologies! I found 2 topics (Ensure source citations on all documents) which amount to a little less than 400 votes. I will add my weight to both of them.