MKA Burning of the Four Courts P.Rec OfficeNinety one years ago to-day a huge explosion of stored munitions destroyed the Public Records Office of Ireland in the Four Courts building, and with it a huge swathe of Irish history.

Part of the Four Courts complex was occupied by IRA ‘irregulars’ during the Easter vacation of 1922. After temporizing for over two months, Free State forces began to shell the Four Courts on 28 June, and Ireland slipped into civil war. On the afternoon of 30 June 1922 the ‘munitions block’ went up. The precise sequence of events remains unclear.

It has been alleged that the Republicans deliberately booby-trapped its priceless Irish archives, which were stored in the basement of the Four Courts. Nearly one thousand years of irreplaceable archives were destroyed by this act. However, the insurgents, who included future Taoiseach Seán Lemass, denied this accusation and argued that while they had used the archive as a store of their ammunition, they had not deliberately mined it. They suggest that the explosion was caused by the accidental detonation of their ammunition store during the fighting

The inferno of 1922 was, however, only the last in a succession of disasters―fiery or otherwise―to befall the records.

‘Memorandum that all the rolls of the Irish chancery with writs, inquisitions, bills and all memoranda touching the said chancery from the time of master Thomas Cantok, formerly chancellor of Ireland, up to the twenty-eighth year of the reign of Edward I [1299–1300] were burned by accident in the abbey of St Mary near Dublin in the great fire in that abbey, except two rolls of the twenty-eighth year, one of patent writs and the other of close writs.’

Copy Tithe Applotment Record

Copy Tithe Applotment Record

So what exactly was lost in 1922? tell us ‘In 1919 Herbert Wood, Deputy Keeper of the Public Record Office of Ireland, published a 300 page catalogue of the record office’s holdings. A guide to the records deposited in the Public record office of Ireland lists, in detail, hundreds of collections, containing thousands of records. Records belonging to the Judiciary, the Clerk of the Crown, Commissions, Jurisdictions and Land offices to name a few. Census records, so dear to the heart of family historians, are listed under Miscellaneous. There were records of railways, army wives, publicans, debtors and insolvents, all of which have been lost’.   However not a was lost.  See full list of Irish Family records, online and offline, for the country here.   And for Kerry  our helpful Links and Resources will direct you to  trace people and their land.