The Avondhu - By The Fireside
June of 2022 saw archives from around the world join forces to bring Ireland’s destroyed Public Record Office back to life.
For the first time in 100 years, the public is able to ‘step back in time’ to explore a virtual recreation of the country’s Public Record Office and its collections as they were on the eve of their destruction at Dublin’s Four Courts at the outset of the Civil War.
Among the records shared resulting from the replacement records are two Census forms from families living locally.
The first form is a damaged 1841 Census form for the McGrath family, possibly of Curraghagalla (likely north) of the Glanworth parish under the Fermoy Barony, County Cork.
It is noted by Virtual Treasury (virtualtreasury. ie) that the ink on the document is ‘very faded’ for the name of the parish and townland, but it is believed that the parish’s name ends in ‘th’ and if correct, ‘then this must be Glanworth parish’.
“Little remains of the name of the townland, but it seems to commence with ‘Curragh’. If correct, then the townland must be Curraghallagh or Curraghoo,” it reads.
On the document recording the McGrath family’s detail, some light is shed on the family in 1841, with a ‘Mickal’ (likely to be Michael) McGrath, aged 47, who was a farmer listed as head of the family.
The Census form notes that Mickal had married in 1822, meaning he would have married aged 28. It was noted that Mickal could not read.
His wife and children’s names are unreadable on the form due to the damage caused, however, their other details are listed.
His wife, also aged 47, also could not read and had no occupation listed.
The oldest child, a 17-year-old daughter who was unmarried at the time, could read and write and had ‘assistance’ listed as her occupation. Both sons, aged 14 and 11 were at school. The 14-year-old could read and write, while the 11-yearold could read.
Another damaged Census form included in the collection is that of the Fennesy family, also of the Fermoy Barony.
Virtual Treasury notes that the writing of the name in the ‘Name of Head of Family’ section on the front of the form is the same writing for that of the McGrath family, therefore, it was likely the enumerator filling in the form.
The partial townland name on the work commences with ‘Currag’ so it was determined it was from one of two Curraghagalla townlands.
“Curraghagalla South townland had 14 enumerated houses in 1841, and Curraghagalla North had 21. Since this form is numbered 15 it cannot be from Curraghagalla South (forms were numbered on a townland basis), so Curraghagalla North seems the likely location,” Virtual Treasury reads.
Edmond Fennesy, a 40-year-old man was listed as the head of the family whose Census form was recovered for the records.
Due to damage on the document, the occupation listed for Edmond Fennesy is only partially legible, ending in ‘ealor’, annotated to possibly be a Tealor (or a tailor). Details of the ability to read or write are also illegible.
Edmond was married to a 36-year-old woman whose first name is not legible on the document and whose surname was listed as Keean. Two children lived in the household, Edmond’s 9-year-old son and 11-yearold step-daughter, neither of whose first names were legible.
It is noted that the stepdaughter possibly had the surname ‘Dalton’. Neither
child could read.
When the Public Record Office of Ireland was destroyed by fire in 1922, hundreds of thousands of precious historical documents relating to all aspects of Irish life were lost — apparently forever. However, the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland is a vast and growing treasury of replacement documents newly discovered in partner archives around the world.
Freely and permanently available online, everyone with an interest in Ireland’s past will be able to explore seven centuries of Irish history through tens of thousands of searchable documents. Across the collected records, 50 million words of text, 150,000 records and more than 6,000 maps, including historic maps of Fermoy, Mitchelstown and surrounding areas can be found, spanning an arc of Irish history from 1174 right up to 1922.
The Virtual Treasury is the outcome of a five-year State-funded programme of research entitled ‘Beyond 2022’. Led by Trinity College Dublin, Beyond 2022 has combined historical investigation, archival conservation, and technical innovation to re-imagine and recreate, through digital technologies, the archive that was lost on 30th June 1922.
The ground-breaking research programme has been developed by historians in Trinity College and computer scientists in the SFI ADAPT Centre, in partnership with five core partners: the National Archives of Ireland, National Archives (UK), Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Irish Manuscripts Commission and the Library of Trinity College Dublin.
Funded by the Government of Ireland under Project Ireland 2040 through the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, the Virtual Record Treasury is a meaningful legacy for the State’s Decade of Centenaries programme (2012-2023).