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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: September 10, 2012 @ 9:55 am

    Cork leads and Cork follows

    John Grenham

    In many areas, Cork sets the example for Dublin, but not always for the best. Take the destruction of its records. At the height of the War of Independence, on the night of 10-11 December 1920, a series of fires set by rogue Auxiliaries destroyed much of the centre of Cork city. Among the buildings completely obliterated was the City Hall, which held all the surviving municipal records. An earlier fire, in 1891, had already destroyed the City Treasury and Sheriff’s Office. The gaping hole in local records that resulted prefigured uncannily what was to happen to the Public Record Office in Dublin in 1922.

    And since then, as with the national situation, every scrap of paper and every crumb of information that escaped the inferno is doubly precious. At the centre of the effort to preserve everything that survived and make it publicly available is Cork City and County Archives (corkarchives.ie). Drawing funding very sensibly from a range of bodies, including Cork City and County Councils, and UCC, they have been in existence for more than four decades, and the range of their collections is extraordinary. It ranges from the 199 boxes of records from solicitors Flynn Exham, dating back to the 16th century, to the City Council Rate Collection books, to the records of the Cork Shakespearian Society.

    Over the past few years, the online side of the collection has expanded wonderfully and, as well as online exhibitions covering, for example, Clonakilty landed estates and the history of retailing in Cork city, which make use of digitised documents, more and more full digitisations of original records are appearing on the site.

    The most recent are the excellent local authority graveyard records, with Cobh, Dunbulloge, Kilcully and Rathcooney covered so far.

    In this case, though, they are following the example rather than setting it. Whose example? Kerry’s, of course.

    ['Irish Roots archive from 2009 at www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/magazine/column]