Tuesday 5 May 2015

Dublin workhouse records make online debut

FindMyPast has added the Dublin Workhouse Admission and Discharge Registers, 1840–1919 to its database, placing online for the first time what appears to be some 1.5million records.

I say 'what appears to be' as there has been no official announcement to mark the arrival or provide details of this collection*.

Registers for
  • North Dublin Union Workhouse (557,000 records)
  • South Dublin Union Workhouse (746,000 records), and
  • Rathdown Union Workhouse (229,000 records)
are covered and they hold some great information.

In addition to the date of admission, name, age and sex, you'll find the name of a spouse (or sometimes a next of kin), a home address from just before the admission (assuming the individual was not a vagrant), and even the person's pre-admission occupation.

Here is a terrific example, discovered on a random search:  On 23 March 1846, 69-year-old Bridget Crawley was admitted to North Dublin Union Workhouse 'in good health'. She was a Roman Catholic widow, previously of 22 Church Street, who'd been working as a 'huxter' (a street seller of ale, I believe). Her next of kin was James and she had three children and was a 'native of Charlestown, Co Louth' She was discharged on 24 August 1846.

Now if that level of detail doesn't get you excited, I don't know what will!

Such an example also makes clear that these records include people who originated from outside the County Dublin area. There are plenty of them. For those born locally, the exact street address is frequently recorded. See image below.

The Registers join the Dublin Poor Law Unions Boards of Guardians minute books for North Dublin, South Dublin, Rathdown and Balrothery on FindMyPast. I'm not sure exactly when this collection was uploaded; it may have been a couple of weeks ago but again, there's been no official announcement.

As you'd expect from minute books, the pages are full of the workings and decisions of the Board of Guardians (BoG). Individuals living in the workhouse are sometimes identified ie on 11 December 1918, 'an artificial leg (an ordinary pin leg) (wooden)' was approved for 56-year-old William Cooney by Balrothery BoG, but you're more likely to find details of staff or suppliers than inmates. However, the minute book pages have been indexed to make finding names easier. Just bear in mind that while ocr systems have become reasonably sophisticated, reading and understanding 19th-century handwriting is demanding at best.

Both collections (the registers and the minute books) can be accessed on FindMyPast with either an Ireland or a World subscription.

The original Admission/Discharge registers and the BoG minute books are held by the National Archives of Ireland.

You can find out more about each of the workhouses at Peter Higginbottom's excellent site: North Dublin; South Dublin; Balrothery; Rathdown.

*Many thanks to all those who emailed me after 'stumbling across' these new collections.