Release embargoed until Thursday 23rd February 00:01
Drunk in charge of an a_ss and cart, tippling in a sheebeen and the disturbance of a divine service: 1.2 million Irish Petty Session Records now searchable online
Â·Another 15 million cases are to follow throughout 2012
Â·One of the great untapped resources for researching your family history
Â·Drunkenness the most common offence â€“ accounting for one third of cases
Today, Irish family history website findmypast.ie launched online for the first time the Petty Sessions order books (1850-1910), one of the greatest untapped resources for those tracing their Irish roots.
The original Petty Sessions records, held at the National Archives of Ireland, were scanned by Family Search and have now been transcribed and made fully searchable by findmypast.ie. They cover all types of cases, from allowing trespass of cattle to being drunk in charge of an a ss and cart. These were the lowest courts in the country who dealt with the vast bulk of legal cases, both civil and criminal. This first batch of entries contains details of 1.2 million cases, with most records giving comprehensive details of the case including: name of complainant, name of defendant, names of witnesses, cause of complaint, details of the judgement, details of a fine if any, and details of a sentence passed down if any. Another 15 million cases are to follow throughout 2012.
This first batch of records is particularly useful for areas of the country for which family history records are notoriously sparse such as Connaught and Donegal.
The reasons for cases being brought before the Petty Sessions Court are incredibly varied, but unsurprisingly the most common offence was drunkenness, which accounted for over a third of all cases. The top five offences tried before the courts were:
1. Drunkenness – 33%
2. Revenue/Tax offences – 21%
3. A_ssault – 16%
4. Local acts of nuisance – 5%
5. Destruction of property – 4%
The nature of these cases was significantly different from those in England. Figures show that the rate of conviction for drunkenness was three times greater, four times greater for tax offences, 65% higher for as_sault, and twice as likely for â€œmalicious and wilful destruction of propertyâ€ than that of our nearest neighbours.1
The records are full of the minor incidents which are representative of the vast majority of cases which were brought before the Resident Magistrates. For example, we have Michael Downey of Athlone, Co. Westmeath who was charged with being â€œdrunk while in charge of an a ss and cart in a public areaâ€, Pat Curley of Cloonakilla, Co. Westmeath who was charged with causing â€œmalicious injury to a bicycleâ€, the five men and women all convicted of â€œtippling in a sheebeenâ€ (drinking in an unlicensed premises) on Queen Street, Athlone and given fines of between Â£1 and Â£5 or the five men who were charged with disturbing the Reverend J.W. Davidson as he was â€œministering a divine serviceâ€ in Bundoran, Co.Donegal.
Brian Donovan, Director of findmypast.ie, comments: â€œThese court records open up a unique window into Irish society in the 19th century. Most families interacted with the law in one way or another, being perpetrators or victims of petty crime, resolving civil disputes, to applying for a dog licence. The records are full of the trauma and tragedy of local life, as family members squabbled, shop keepers recovered debt, and the police imposed order. These records help fulfil our mission to provide more than just names and dates, to get to the stories of our ancestorsâ€™ lives.”
1. British Parliamentary Papers (1864)
Findmypast.ie is the worldâ€™s most comprehensive Irish family history website, providing easy-to-search, online access to some of the most significant Irish records that have ever been made available. This new site is a joint venture between two experts in the field: findmypast.co.uk, one of the leading family history websites and part of the brightsolid family, while Eneclann is an award-winning Trinity College Campus Company specialising in genealogical and historical research and the publication of historical records.
Based in Dublin, findmypast.ie has a dedicated team committed to providing the best experience possible when researching Irish family history.