Irish Roots

May 10th, 2010

John Grenham

The slow migration of records online continues. The latest to become available are the Famine Relief Commission Papers held at the National Archives. A central part of the government’s response to the Famine, the Commission oversaw the collection of information about the blight and food shortages, the distribution of food relief and the activities of local relief committees. The Papers consist largely of correspondence received by the Commission between 1845 and 1847, and have long been an important primary source in the Archives for local history and for detailed study of the progress of the Famine.

All of the papers have been scanned, all personal and place names transcribed and a short abstract of each paper created. They are hosted and searchable for free on www.ancestry.co.uk. Once again, the fact that the originals are provided provides a focus on the intimate particularity of the catastrophe. This, for example, from the clergy of Mountshannon, received on March 30th 1846: “We have no dispensary, tho’ whole families are in fever, prostrate on straw beds without covering, medical aid or nourishment … for God’s sake, send down an engineer to examine and report on our situation”.

There are quibbles. (There are always quibbles). First, the collection is almost impossible to find on ancestry.co.uk: I had to Google the site externally to get access to it. (A direct link is http://tinyurl.com/3774jbt). Second, some of the transcriptions are a little suspect. The wonderfully-named Zumble Froull appears as the author of some of the letters, sounding suspiciously like a refugee from Dickens. On closer inspection, he is a mistaken reading of “Humble Servant”.

Still, though the usefulness of the Papers for pure genealogy is limited, they are a wonderful resource for local history, and the Archives deserve full credit for making them available.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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