Monday 2 April 2012

Any Dublin police in your tree?

Title page from Watch book register, RCBL P328.3.1
Ireland's oldest surviving police records have gone online today at the Church of Ireland RCB Library, making fascinating reading for those whose ancestors may have worked in the capital's early police system or lived in St John's Parish.

The Parish Watch collection comprises nine volumes – two account books (1724-85) and seven registers (1765-80) – and provide the earliest archival evidence of a parish security system that employed constables and watchmen and was overseen by the Established Church. They chronicle the activities of the parish watch of this particular inner city parish – one of 21 parishes into which the city of Dublin was divided – in the years immediately before the Dublin Police Force was created.

As the pages of each of these volumes are turned in the digital presentation (see link below), local society in 18th–century Dublin and the activities of the parish watch system come to life. You can find the names of the constables and watchmen; their salaries and expenses; when and where they were stationed and when they patrolled within the bounds of the parish (it was always at night).
Watch schedule for the night of 5 March 1767,
showing locations of the watch stands, and the named
watchmen dispatched to each stand, RCBL P328.3.2
Click here for larger view

You can also find details of the crimes committed and the petty justice administered at the watch house, located on Wood Quay, in response.

While St John's church was closed in 1878 and demolished in 1884, its records survive and are held at the RCB Library. These include the earliest register of bmds (dating from 1619) and an even older vestry minute book.

The project to digitise and release these records was a collaboration between the Garda Museum, RCB and the Garda Síochána Historical Society.

View the watch books from St John’s parish.