Millions of Irish Prison Registers Go Online

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 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 reasons for incarceration cover all types of crime but unsurprisingly the most common offence was drunkenness, which accounted for over 30% of all crimes reported and over 25% of incarcerations.

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:
CORK -  CLONAKILTY 1883-1886
CORK – CORK 1819-1924
DUBLIN – NEWGATE 1845-1861
GALWAY – GALWAY 1839-1851
KERRY – TRALEE 1852-1920
KILDARE – ATHY 1858-1860
KILDARE – NAAS 1859-1881
LAOIS – QUEEN’S CO 1830-1879
LOUTH – DUNDALK 1917-1924
MAYO – CASTLEBAR 1878-1919
MEATH – TRIM 1837-1878
SLIGO – SLIGO 1836-1924

Information provided:
The information varies over time, and depending on the type of prison, with bridewells typically recording less information. The county courts generally recorded:

* Name
* Address
* Place of birth
* Occupation
* Religion
* Education
* Age
* Physical description
* Name and address of next of kin
* Crime committed (Victim)
* Sentence
* Dates of committal and release/decease

If you have a subscription, you can start searching straight away. If you’re wanting to know what their subscription rates are like, you can find out here.

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.


32 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Jo Scott says:

    THis is a terrific resource. Unfortunately for me it doesn’t cover the period for Naas Gaol which I need – 1810 – 1812. Does this mean those records no longer exist? If they exist, how would I go about finding them? Thanks very much!

  2. Louise O'Reilly says:

    Hello fantastic resource!! i was hoping ye could send me on information and pictures that ye would have on CORK – QUEENSTOWN (BRIDEWELL) 1882-1894 this would be greatly appreciated thank you in advance!

  3. Alona Tester says:

    Louise, the above post mentions records that are online. To find them you can search on

    If you’re after further information that they don’t have, can I suggest you write to the local county Genealogy Group and also the Archives offices in the region to see what records they hold.

  4. Elaine cocker says:

    Hi, I’m a member with find my past, genes reunited and ancestry. I am wondering how to obtain the court records for Bridget Connell who was sentenced VDL with her daughter Catherine, 1851 on William Dare.
    Bridget was in Gongergoean prison, dublin after being sentenced for stealing turnips on the 7′december, 1850. She also served for stealing work house clothing and was prosecuted by the union in cork, cork county, ireland.
    She was married to Michael Connell and they’d had a daughter Catherine who was placed in this prison with her when she was about 15 mths old. Michael died on spike island in 1854 he had served for larceny and had a prior conviction. He died before VDL.
    I have been trying to find out Bridget’s maiden name I have one marriage to a Michael Connor in castlerea, ireland in 1846 and the maiden names are eit he biddy Swannick or Bridget Flyn. This is unsure though.
    Wondering if you can help, please.Thank you. Elaine cocker

  5. Alona Tester says:

    Hi Elaine, I’m no expert in Irish research, but I’d be getting in touch with both the National Archives of Ireland (, and also theTasmanian Archives ( – to see what each of them have, or where they can direct you to.

    You might like to subscribe to some Irish genealogy groups,such as those on RootsWeb,or those on Facebook. These are places you can put your Irish queries,and those with Irish genealogy knowledgecan help out. I hope this helps.

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