Thursday, March 3, 2016

Records of the Military Service of Irish Soldiers, Volunteers & Freedom Fighters

The cruciform water feature at The Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, Dublin.
The garden was built to commemorate the lives of those killed in the fight for Irish freedom.
Now that we are well within the decade of centenaries and are approaching the 100th Anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, the official State commemoration of which will be held on Easter Sunday, 27 March 2016 1, it is a good time to consider those records which might allow us to uncover the history of the military service of our Irish ancestors and relatives. 

To that end, below I have listed twenty websites and resources, along with links to additional information, which may aid you in finding the service history of your family members. Included here are sites which hold materials germane to not only the 1916 Easter Rising, but also the Irish War of Independence, the Irish Civil War, the First World War and other conflicts. Peppered throughout are photos I have taken on my history research travels.

Also, before you set out on your search you may want to consider the timeline of rebellions, wars and other events for which you might find records of the military participation for your Irish family members.

The Irish Rebellions of 1798 and 1803

Young Irelander Rebellion of 1848

The First World War, 1914-1918

The Easter Rising, 1916

The Irish War of Independence, 1919-21

Founding of the Irish Free State and with it the National Army, 1922

The Irish Civil War, 1922-23

As always, I wish you the best of luck with your research.

Cheers to you,



The Irish Volunteer, North Circular Road, Dublin.
(See endnote 2.)
In my opinion the Bureau of Military History Archives is the most important site for accessing materials, both online and offline, for ancestors and family members who fought in conflicts on the island of Ireland, including the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War.

On this site you will find Military Pension records for those who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising, and applied for and were granted a pension. If your family member — or his/her survivors — did not apply for a pension in respect of service, you will not find a record of their service. The records for those who served exclusively during the Irish War of Independence and the Irish Civil War have not yet been released online. 

As well as the Military Service Pensions Collection,  a whole host of materials can be accessed online including the Bureau of Military History Archives (1913 - 1921), which includes the Witness Statements collection amassed between 1947 and 1958,  The Irish Free State Army Census Collection 1922, An tÓglách Magazine accounts of the 1916 Rising, copies of significant issues of An tÓglách Magazine and the Military Archives Image Gallery. All of this is accessible online for free.


The NAI holds a significant cache of military records, including a major collection of Rebellion Papers for the 1798 and 1803 Rebellions. These must be accessed in person; however, via the NAI genealogy site you can search for and view the wills of Irish soldiers who died while serving in the British Forces. Most of these wills date from the First World War, but there are a small number which date to the late 19th Century, as well as some from the South African War, 1899-1902.

In Connolly train station, Dublin, a memorial to staff of The Great Northern Railway
who were killed during the First World War.

An excellent site, the main purpose of which is to make available the names of those recorded on war memorials in Ireland, as well as images of the memorials and the inscriptions on them. The site is free to access and is fully searchable by surname, county, regiment or service and specific war or conflict.

4. MILITARY HERITAGE of Ireland Trust:

The mandate of this web portal is to promote the widest possible understanding and appreciation of Ireland’s distinctive military heritage.

The Military Heritage of Ireland Trust archives directory page is an indispensable listing of the numerous archives, libraries, museums and heritage centres which hold materials pertaining to the Irish soldier.

Two of the four Book Rooms which hold the volumes of Ireland's War Memorial,
 The War Memorial Gardens, Dublin (see endnote 3).

The Committee of the Irish National War Memorial recorded some 49,400 names of those Irish killed in WW1. The names and details of the lost were listed alphabetically in leather bound volumes, illustrated by Irish artist Harry Clarke, for publication in 1923. Those volumes are now stored in the Book Rooms of the War Memorial Gardens in Dublin Ireland. The content can be accessed on a number of pay-per-view sites including FindMyPast Ireland and Ancestry. The memorial can also be searched for free on the Flanders Fields museum website at

See also:

6. IRISH MEDALS dot org

This is an excellent website which offers a significant cache of information relating to the people who fought in the 1916 Easter Rising, the War of Independence, the Civil War, and World War One. As well, it offers what is described as “other snippets of information relating to these and other conflicts”.

Memorial to the Battle of Mount Street,
Dublin, Easter 1916.
(see endnote 4)

At the outset of World War One, Guinness Brewery at St James's Gate in Dublin was the largest brewery in the world, employing close to 4,000 people. Of those 4,000, more than 800 men enlisted to fight with the British forces. While these men were away Guinness not only guaranteed their jobs upon their return, but continued to pay them half of their wages.

Guinness records indicate 103 of those 800 men died during the war. Their names, alongside all those who served from the brewery, are commemorated in a roll of honour which was produced in 1920.

Although the Guinness roll of honour cannot currently be accessed on the Guinness website, images of it can be viewed on the Irish War Memorials site at


An excellent site with lots of very interesting material compiled by the Irish Great War Society, which describes itself as “a living history group dedicated to education and remembrance”. Their motto is a stellar one: ‘Cuimhnigh - Meas - tOnórach’, translated from Gaelic to English means: ‘Remember - Respect - Honour’.

9. CWGC: The Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

The Commonwealth war graves database lists the names and places of commemoration for the 1.7 million men and women of the Commonwealth forces who died during the two world wars. It also records details of 67,000 Commonwealth civilians who died 'as a result of enemy action' in the Second World War.

The site is fully searchable by surname, date, war, rank, regiment, awards or any combination of those criteria. Search results can be sorted by column heading, then printed and clicked on for access to more information.

For a history of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission see:


An excellent website, fully searchable by surname, and also rank, regimental number, and regiment. This site provides photographs of the graves of those who fell on fields of battle in Europe and elsewhere. For a small donation they will provide copies (digital and/or hard copy) upon request.  The War Graves Photographic Project works together with the CWGC.

The standing stones, memorialising the dead and missing of the 36th Ulster and 10th & 16th  Irish Divisions,
Island of Ireland Peace Park, Belgium.
11. NATIONAL ARCHIVES UK (NAUK): First World War site:

On this excellent site you can view a vast collection of materials pertaining to those who served in the British forces during the First World War. Among the materials included are Unit War diaries which detail the day to day activities of the individual battalions in the field of battle.


Fully searchable by name, regimental number, corps, rank and unit, the medals index offers the option to purchase a copy of the medal card, and some cards are available for viewing online. The medal rolls are also available on Ancestry UK.


A number of materials pertaining to the Irish can be accessed through the Imperial War Museum. Various articles also offer the British perspective on the participation of Irish men and women in the First World War.

Close-up view of the plaque in St. Mary's Church, Haddington Road, Dublin.
It is the only World War One commemoration to be found inside a Catholic church in the Republic.

The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland is an excellent resource for materials relating to World War One. The war memorial records they offer are fully searchable and available for download as free PDFs.


The stated aim of this project is “to investigate the stories of the lives and deaths of the many people, from the Derry/Londonderry area, who died as result of World War 1 (1914-1918) and also to pass on all this information to as many people as possible throughout the world.” Included in the project are the names of at least 400 persons whose details are not recorded elsewhere.


This very interesting website is dedicated to persons of all nationalities who were killed in World War One or World War Two and are buried in Ulster.

This website is organised by County, but there are separate pages for cemeteries with large numbers of war graves, such as Belfast City Cemetery, Belfast (Milltown) Roman Catholic Cemetery, Dundonald Cemetery, Carnmoney Cemetery and Londonderry (Derry) Cemetery. There are also pages for Foreign Nationals (Polish, Norwegian, French, Dutch and Italian), as well as unidentified service personnel and group memorials.

WGU also has a  Facebook page:

The Pozières Memorial to the Missing, on the Somme, France.
More than 14,000 souls are commemorated here, including many Irish.
The walls are lined with the names of those with no known grave.

Did your Irish ancestor or relative immigrate to Canada and then join the Canadian Forces to fight in WW1? If so, then be sure to visit the Military Heritage Section of Library and Archives Canada. The site and database are free to access.

Soldiers of the First World War: 1914-1918 database Canada:


Prison Registers, which can be accessed through sites such as FindMyPast Ireland, can be very helpful because they offer not only names, but in many cases reasons for internment. In these records you may find an ancestor or family member who was arrested and interned in Kilmainham Gaol for illegal activities during the Land Wars, the 1916 Easter Rising, the Irish War of Independence or the Irish Civil War.


Newspapers have always been a great resource for finding all manner of information related to family history research. If you are looking for obituaries for soldiers killed while serving with the British forces during the First World War, be sure to consult the pay-to-view archives of the Irish Times newspaper at The Irish Times was the instrument of the State during this period, so lists of soldiers killed were published, along with some individual articles — some including photographs — about officers who were lost during the war.


Although this is not a site dedicated to records, it is an excellent site for learning more about the history of upheaval in the seminal decade of 1913-1923 in Ireland, with the material delivered in a number of interesting and accessible ways.


1. The 1916 Easter Rising actually began on Monday 24 April, 1916; however, the Irish government has chosen to hold its major commemoration events on Easter weekend. There are also many other events for commemoration which are being held by public and private organisations in both March and April.

2. The plaque reads: "For the glory of God in enduring memory for the officers and for the volunteers who are no longer with us that fought for Ireland’s freedom and who were once members of ‘C’ company 1st battalion Dublin Brigade of the republican army a company which was founded in the year 1913."

3. There are four Book Rooms in War Memorial Park. Within them are housed the Books of Remembrance. There is one book room for each of the four provinces of Ireland. Also, secreted away in one of the book rooms is the Ginchy Cross, a 4 meter high (13ft) wooden celtic cross which was erected on the Somme in 1917. The cross stood as a memorial to the 4,354 men of the 16th Irish Division who were killed on the Somme in 1916 during two battles, one at Ginchy and one at Guillemont. The cross was brought back to Ireland in 1926 and locked away here. In its place in France stands a stone cross.

4. The inscription reads: "In Commemoration of the Battle of Mount Street Bridge and in honour of the Irish Volunteers who gallantly gave their lives in this area in defence of The Irish Republic, Easter Week, 1916. Remember their sacrifice and be true to their ideals. God Rest the Brave."

The altar at the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.
Over 72,000 soldiers who have no known grave are commemorated here.

What resources have you found helpful in the search for the military history of your Irish ancestors and relatives?

All photographs are ©irisheyesjgg and ©JGeraghty-Gorman and may not be reproduced elsewhere.


  1. Jennifer, an excellent selection of resources, my mother will be very pleased, now we can search in earnest. Thank you for sharing these. Catherine.

    1. Hello Catherine,

      Thanks for your comments; always much appreciated. Glad to know your mother will be pleased and hoping you make some good finds in these records.


  2. Jenn, great post. Lots of info here, and I love the pics. Makes me wish I had "freedom fighters" in my family. (Maybe I do??)

    1. Hi Charlotte,

      Thanks for your comments; always much appreciated. Perhaps there is someone on your tree with a military record just waiting to be found. :-)


  3. This is a great list, Jennifer. I’ve saved it to come back to once I’ve had my fill of the new index to RC parish records.

    1. Hi Dara,

      Thanks for your comments; always much appreciated. I hope you find the sources helpful. I've been working on the new index as well hoping to find something I overlooked on the NLI site. :-)


  4. Jennifer:

    Can you please publish my website details:
    All images are FREE.

    Go Raibh Mhaith Agat!

    Tony Buckley

    1. Hello Tony, so sorry to have taken so long to put this up. Thanks for sending it my way. Great site, by the way!



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Cheers, Jennifer

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