For the many people who are researching your Irish heritage … if you have convicts or criminals in the family, it just a whole lot easier, thanks to Findmypast.ie putting over 4 million Irish Prison Records online.
These cover the period1790-1920, these records are quoted as being “one of the greatest untapped resources for those tracing their Irish roots”.
The original Prison Registers, held at the National Archives of Ireland, cover all types of custodial institutions, from bridewells, to county prisons, to sanatoriums for alcoholics. They contain over 3.5 million entries, spread over 130,000 pages, with most records giving comprehensive details of the prisoner, including: name, address, place of birth, occupation, religion, education, age, physical description, name and address of next of kin, crime committed, sentence, dates of committal and release/decease.
The registers offer a real insight into 18th-19th century Ireland. They present evidence of a society of rebellion and social confrontation, where rioting and assault of police officers were everyday occurrences, and of widespread poverty and destitution, with the theft of everything from handkerchiefs to turnips.
The top five offences recorded in the registers are:
1. Drunkenness – 25%
2. Theft – 16%
3. Assault – 12%
4. Vagrancy – 8%
5. Rioting – 4%
The nature of these crimes was significantly different from those in England. Figures show that the rate of conviction for drunkenness and tax evasion was three times greater, and the rate of both destruction of property and prostitution were twice that of our nearest neighbours.
The records are full of individuals who were arrested for very minor offences, for example a record from the Cork City Gaol Court Book lists an arrest for Giles O’Sullivan (26), with no education and no previous convictions, on the 30th of March 1848 for being “a dangerous and suspicious character”. Other examples of the heavy hand of the law can be seen in the case of John Cunningham from Finglas (21) who was arrested for “Washing a car on a thoroughfare” and young Christopher Doyle (14) arrested “for being an idle, disorderly rogue and vagabond”.
The Irish population averaged 4.08 million over this time period and with over 3.5 million names listed in the prison records, it is clear to see how almost every family in Ireland was affected somehow.
These are the Prison’s Covered:
CLARE – ENNIS REFORMATORY 1899-1920
CORK – BANDON (BRIDEWELL) 1849-1878
CORK – CHARLEVILLE (BRIDEWELL) 1856-1880
CORK – CLONAKILTY 1883-1886
CORK – CORK 1819-1924
CORK – DUNMANWAY (BRIDEWELL) 1858-1878
CORK – FERMOY (BRIDEWELL) 1897-1909
CORK – FORT CARLISLE 1848-1924
CORK – KANTURK (BRIDEWELL) 1878-1855
CORK – KINSALE (BRIDEWELL) 1856-1879
CORK – MILLSTREET (BRIDEWELL) 1855-1862
CORK – MITCHELSTOWN (BRIDEWELL) 1884-1892
CORK – QUEENSTOWN (BRIDEWELL) 1882-1894
CORK – SKIBBEREEN (BRIDEWELL) 1855-1881
CORK – SPIKE ISLAND PRISON 1860-1883
CORK – YOUGHAL (BRIDEWELL) 1873-1900
DUBLIN – GRANGEGORMAN FEMALE PRISON 1831-1897
DUBLIN – KILMAINHAM 1789-1910
DUBLIN – MOUNTJOY 1830-1924
DUBLIN – NEWGATE 1845-1861
DUBLIN – RICHMOND (BRIDEWELL) 1845-1887
DUBLIN – SMITHFIELD 1844-1849
GALWAY – GALWAY 1839-1851
GALWAY – LOUGHREA (BRIDEWELL) 1884-1920
KERRY – TRALEE 1852-1920
KILDARE – ATHY 1858-1860
KILDARE – NAAS 1859-1881
KILKENNY – KILKENNY 1892-1921
LAOIS – MARYBOROUGH 1821-1924
LAOIS – QUEEN’S CO 1830-1879
LEITRIM – CARRICK-ON-SHANON 1849-1901
LIMERICK – LIMERICK 1830-1901
LONGFORD – LONGFORD 1856-1898
LOUTH – DUNDALK 1917-1924
MAYO – CASTLEBAR 1878-1919
MEATH – TRIM 1837-1878
OFFALY – TULLAMORE 1860-1921
SLIGO – SLIGO 1836-1924
TIPPERARY – CLONMEL 1840-1924
TIPPERARY – NENAGH 1842-1884
WATERFORD – WATERFORD 1842-1924
WEXFORD – NEW ROSS (BRIDEWELL) 1846-1905
WEXFORD – WEXFORD 1852-1904
WICKLOW – WICKLOW 1846-1901
The information varies over time, and depending on the type of prison, with bridewells typically recording less information. The county courts generally recorded:
* Place of birth
* Physical description
* Name and address of next of kin
* Crime committed (Victim)
* Dates of committal and release/decease
I do have one line of Irish heritage (the McCullough’s from Antrim), but am doubtful of finding too much in these Prison Records, since my family were generally Ministers of Religion, but I’ll be looking as I know it happens too often, that you just never know what you’ll find where.