Irish Roots

January 9th 2012

John Grenham


The Military Archives, based in Cathal Brugha barracks in Rathmines in Dublin, has long been under-appreciated. The most obvious reason is that the records it holds concern only the Irish Defence Forces, the Department of Defence and the Army Pensions Board. Before 1922, of course, the only official army was the British Army and all of its records are in the English National Archives in Kew. Confusion about this is surprisingly common, and the recently-revamped Archives website at militaryarchives.ie has to go out of its way to make the distinction as clear as possible. One paradoxical result of redirecting so many researchers is that the staff have become experts on Irish regiments in the British Army - the site's "About us" section has the best short guide to these regiments I've ever seen. The redesigned site also provides the clearest picture so far of exactly what the Archives holds offline, with such little-known gems as an Army census for every barracks and post in the Free State on 12th/13th November 1922 and internment camp records from the civil war and the Emergency.

For the moment, the only collection actually online is of Irish military barracks maps, plans and drawings, visually interesting and very useful for local historians. Coming over the next few months is the complete collection of more than 1700 Bureau of Military History witness statements relating to the history of the movement for Independence from 1913 to 1921. A complete index to contributors is already online. Next will be the Military Service Pensions Project, a collection of almost 300,000 files relating to the period 1916-24, due to come online before the 1916 centenary.

Of course the real meat and potatoes for family historians are the Army personnel and pension files. These are not (yet?) at the Archives and are only available to direct next of kin, but the site provides admirably clear directions on how to request them.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


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