Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday's Tips: Sources you may have overlooked: Irish Manuscripts

It is likely that most of us can name our favourite sources for Irish family history research. Like everyone else, I long for only primary source documents with as much detail as possible. Just like those obsessed with Irish family history, I dream about 15th century records of birth, fantasize about 16th century marriage documents, and pine for pre-20th century census records. However, as Mick Jagger sings in the song of the same title, "You can't always get what you want".

Since we can't always get what we want, we have to want what we can get. To that end, on today's Tuesday's Tips, I am recommending a source which you may have overlooked when it comes to your Irish family history/genealogy research. The source is the Irish Manuscripts Collections which can be accessed online through the website of  The Irish Manuscripts Commission.

The mandate of the Irish Manuscripts Commission is "to promote access to and dissemination of primary sources for Irish history and culture". The commission is actively engaged in a programme of digitization of their back list of publications, many of which are now out of print. Those records which have been digitized are now available on their website.

The manuscripts in this collection are of major genealogical import, because they not only include information about individuals of rank, but also information about dealings with people of all ranks, even the lowest of the tenancy. I have included images just to give you a taste of the kind of information you can find in these manuscripts. Perhaps information about one of your ancestors is included within.

Simply click on the link above to view the index of the entire collection. All of the volumes highlighted in blue on the site are currently available for viewing, and include the following:

The Inchiquin Manuscripts

This volume holds papers calendared from the estate and family of the O’Briens, who were Earls of Inchiquin, Earls of Thomond and (from 1855) Barons Inchiquin, and covers the period from the 16th century through to the 19th century. Of particular interest to Irish family history researchers may be the leases & other deeds, wills & administrations, marriage settlements, and rentals & accounts. Some of the deeds are transcribed in the original Latin.

Click on this link to access this manuscript volume.

The Kenmare Manuscripts

These manuscripts comprise the family papers and manuscripts of the Earl of Kenmare. Of particular interest to the Irish family history researcher may be the rental ledgers and estate account books. Also included in the transcription are a number of leases, conveyances, and letters which may be of interest. For example, a series of letters dating to 1730/31 from Daniel Cronin, an agent for the Kenmare Estate in the period, describes the condition of the estate, and makes mention of many local residents. Unfortunately, the editor of this volume, Edward MacLysaght, sometimes describes the content of various letters rather than simply transcribing them.

Some of the entries included from the Viscount Kenmare's Book of Observations make for an interesting read because he offers opinions about his tenants. Of one of his tenants in Clounteens, County Limerick, the Viscount observes, "The tenant, Derby Cronin, [is] very backward in paying his rent, and very low in his circumstances in great measure by his own default and mismanagement".

Click on this link to access this manuscript volume

A snippet from a transcribed rental ledger, dated May 1705 - May 1706.
The Calendar of Ormond Deeds

The full title of this manuscript is 'The Calendar of Ormond Deeds: Being the Mediaeval Documents Preserved at Kilkenny Castle'. The manuscripts transcribed in these volumes date from the 12th century to the 17th century, specifically from about 1170 to 1605, and comprise the largest collection of extant Irish Mediaeval records.

From 1932 to 1943, Edmund Curtis, Professor of Modern History at Trinity College, Dublin, chose to focus his attention on the transcription and publication of the deeds and documents portion of this collection. Included are transcriptions of such documents as wills, letters patent, indentures, and even lists of tenants. Each volume includes an extensive table of contents entitled 'The List of Deeds' which gives a brief synopsis of each individual transcription found within.

Click on this link to access a list of volumes which comprise this collection.

A snippet of a list of tenants, dated 1595-96.


  1. I will certainly check that out. Thanks, Jennifer!

  2. Can these manuscripts be searched by county, townland, surname,...?

  3. Hello Colleen,

    Thanks for your comments. After initiating the documents, you may use any search term you wish in the key words search box. It will give you a list of hits and the pages on which you can find the info. The tables of contents in all the docs (especially the 'List of Deeds' in the Ormond docs) is worth a quick perusal to give you an idea of what is contained within.

    Happy Searching! I hope you strike gold.



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Cheers, Jennifer

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