Various stories appear on the internet about All the Irish records being burnt.. etc
which, whilst based on an actual event, these usually miss out out some very important
details. The event usualy being referred to is the Fire in the Public Records Office (PRO) in the Four
Courts Complex during the civil war in 1922. It is true that other than some material in the
reading room, and a few rescued fragments, most of the records held at that location were
lost. Equally important is knowing what type of records were kept there, and what types of records were
not held in the PRO, and may therefore survive.
Examples of Primary Family History Sources Held at the PRO in 1922 included :
- Registers of many Church of Ireland parishes had been deposited
in the PRO for safe keeping, as this was the Established Church and the details were state records.
- Census returns for 1831, 1841 and 1851.
- Wills, Probate and associated documentation processed by the Central Registry.
Examples of some Sources NOT Held at the PRO in 1922
- Civil Records - Civil Birth, Marriage and Death Registers and Index books held by the GRO.
- Records of other denominations - Catholic, Presbyterian, Methodist etc
- Census returns for 1901 and 1911.
A number of other useful sources that would likely have been held at the PRO had already been lost by 1922.
For example the Census Returns for 1861, were 1871 destroyed once the statistics had been were extracted
(the primary purpose of the census), and the 1881 and 1891 records were apparently pulped during a
paper shortage during WW1.
The lack of early census records and necessary reliance on church records for earlier research
makes for a slight different research approach to that used in other countries. This means that
in many cases individual lines can only be definitively traced back the early 1800s or so.