Friday 21 August 2020

Ancestors from Donegal? You're in for some treats!

Donegal County Archives has been busy, really busy! Now available to view on their website are two wonderful new record collections. They're free to view and download in pdf format.

Lifford Gaol Turnkey Report 1829 - 1831

This is a handwritten register detailing life for ordinary prisoners in Lifford Gaol. The distribution and collection of hammers to prisoners for yard breaking work is reported daily as are inspections of all cells and 'apartments' in the gaol. The duties of turnkeys and wardsmen are outlined in detail.

Reports include punishments meted out to prisoners for infractions including: disruptive behaviour, fighting with other prisoners, having dirty clothing, threatening officers or disobeying orders, cells not being kept clean or tidy, even for speaking Irish. Punishments included time spent in solitary confinement and deprivation of certain supplies especially milk.

Here are some examples from two days in 1830:

  • Samuel Hamilton and Thomas Carbrey had not properly cleaned the passages in the Debtors Apartments
  • Thomas McIntire and Michl (?) McColgan had not properly made their beds
  • John Thorpe and Samuel McGonigal had tobacco and pipes
  • ... 'Singing an inproper song in presence of the Wardsman of No 5'.
Who wouldn't want to go looking for ancestors in this collection?

On Wednesday evening, RTE's Nationwide programme included a visit to Lifford Gaol following its recent restoration. It is now a community hub and restaurant, but the cells remain and can be visited on a guided tour. The 19 August broadcast is available for 30 days here and the Lifford Gaol feature starts at 11:32 minutes.

Donegal Grand Jury 1753 - 1899

After several uploads since the end of July,  all surviving Donegal Grand Jury assizes and minutes dating from 1753 to 1898 are availabale to view from Donegal Archives' web pages. These were digitised from microfilms of the originals, so the quality can vary from page to page, but there's plenty that are easily legible. There are also some gaps in years. None the less, presentments from every decade in the 19th century are included.

The Grand Jury was made up of local landowners who considered proposals for work to be done in the six baronies of Donegal. These included repair of roads and bridges, and the construction of courthouses, the support of district hospitals, schools and prisons. They can be very useful to family historians, especially when looking for tradesmen and suppliers of goods and services.

Also uploaded is the set of correspondence between the outgoing Grand Jury and the incoming Donegal Co. Council, mainly from 1898 (with some letters from members of the Grand Jury earlier also.)

Have fun!