Many of Ireland’s historic records were destroyed by a fire in 1922. Now a project is hoping to bring many of these records back to life.
What happened to the original records?
In the mid 19th century, it was feared that records, particularly those held by parishes, were in danger of deteriorating and being destroyed. In 1867 the UK parliament passed the Public Records (Ireland) Act, which was further amended in 1873. The act instructed that all court, probate and parish records should be collected and stored at the Public Records Office, located in the Four Courts Complex in Dublin. The act allowed for copies to be made of the documents, which could be used in place of the originals.
Civil war broke out in Ireland in 1922, between nationalists who supported the Anglo-Irish Treaty and those who opposed it. By June, anti-treaty forces were under siege at Dublin’s Four Courts Complex. They chose to store their munitions in the Public Records Office. During the siege, shelling by Free State forces set off several fires, and on 30 June, one of these fires spread to the munitions store. A huge explosion ripped through the building, destroying the Public Records Office and most of its contents.
Reconstructing Ireland's Lost Archive
Historical documents dating back to the 13th century were lost in the fire. But the project, named Beyond 2022, hopes to recreate many of these. by sourcing copies and other material held around the globe.
Beyond 2022 is a collaboration between the National Archive (Ireland), the National Archive (UK), the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, the Irish Manuscripts Commission and Trinity College Dublin, along with over 40 other institutions in Ireland, Great Britain and the USA.
The new digital archive is due to open on 30 June 2022, the centenary of the explosion that destroyed the original documents. It will be open access and freely available to everyone to view, which is exciting news for anyone with Irish ancestors.