Ireland XO Insight - The 1916 Rising Sources

Thursday, 7 April, 2016
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If you are interested in finding out more about ancestors who fought in the 1916 Rising, or have a general interest in what happened during that revolutionary period in Ireland, the following free sources will be very useful to you. 

 Military Service Pensions Collection © Irish Military Archives

Bureau of Military History Collection

The Bureau of Military History provides access to over 1,700 witness statements that refer to the revolutionary period in Ireland between 1913 and 1921. These were recorded in a first person manner and provide a fascinating insight into, not only the events of the time, but also the feelings and opinions of those who were directly involved in this period of change and revolution.

Within the collection are 334 sets of documents, 42 sets of original photographs and 13 vocal recordings that were collected by the Irish State between 1947 and 1957, to ensure that primary source material for the critical revolutionary period of 1913 to 1921 was assembled, co-coordinated and preserved. This Collection is  among the most important primary sources of information on this period available anywhere in the world.

Group of Irish Volunteers inside the GPO during the 1916 Easter Rising week

Group of Irish Volunlteers and one member of the ICA inside the G.P.O. Dublin, Easter Week 1916  Reference BMH/P/8

A Bureau of Military History Witness Statement by an Arthur P. Agnew taken on October 7th 1948 sets out his part in events on Easter Monday. He refers to his recruitment into the IRB in Liverpool in 1910 and later how he was trained to shoot a revolver. He stated that 'miniature rifle clubs were popular in England at the time and we were ordered to join these clubs and make full use of them'. Arthur also stated that his grandfather had fought with the Fenians. He states that on Easter Monday he and the other men 'marched to Harold's Cross where we boarded a tram. Plunkett insisted on paying the conductor for our tickets. We got off at O'Connell Bridge and and formed up and marched to Liberty Hall'. The Rebellion Handbook also lists an Arthur Agnew as one of a total of 289 prisoners removed from Richmond Barracks, Dublin on April 30th 1916 and detained in Stafford Barracks. Agnew's Dublin address is given as 11 Emerald Street and his home address given as 33 Clare Street, Liverpool.

By using any of the available Witness Statements from the Bureau of Military History you can find out more about your 1916 ancestor.

The records of the Bureau of Military History are available to search alongside some 1916 Press Cuttings donated by Mrs Geraldine Dillon, daughter of Count Plunkett: Bureau of Military History


Military Service Pensions Collection  (1916-1923)

For anyone researching ancestors who may have participated in the Rising of 1916, you can now to look for records relating to any pension they might have received from the Irish State for doing so.

In June 1923 the newly established Irish Free State decided to recognize and compensate wounded members, and the widows, children and dependents of deceased members. The Military Service Pensions Collection contains detailed information relating to participants who received these military pensions. It also contains many testimonies and accounts of the surviving leaders, veterans and volunteers who took part in the historic events of the 1916 Rising, War of Independence and Civil War.

This fascinating and fantastically preserved and organised collection is made up of the supporting administrative and other records that were gathered to assist the Department of Defence in deciding on the merit of each applicant’s case.

One of Ireland XO’s favourite parts of this freely accessible online archive is the interactive world map which shows the applications from all around the globe. Click on the red dots to read more about the applicants and to see pdf scans of their original applications. Read about applications from Australia, USA, UK, Canada and even Ghana! Applicants from around the world.

The Military Service Pensions Collection also includes documents relating to

  • The award of medals to veterans of the 1916 Easter Rising and of the War of Independence
  • Files from the Department of Defence relating to the establishment and administration of these schemes.
  • Interactive 1916 Rising action sites map, showing the applicants' locations in Ireland during Easter Week 1916 (23 to 29 April).

The Sinn Féin Rebellion​ Handbook

In May 1916 the Irish Times published  a number of articles and in 1917 this was compiled into the Sinn Féin​ Rebellion Handbook. It provides detailed reports on the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin and around the country, with particular reference to the damage done in the fighting, the individual loss of life and trial of Roger Casement. There are over 1,300 people listed in the document and so it provides information on named individuals that, for example, can be followed through from the 1911 Census.

The Sinn Féin​ Rebellion Handbook provides a wealth of information about the happenings in Dublin and other places in Ireland over that Easter period 100 years ago. Importantly it also provides a visual context through detailed maps showing the key areas where fighting took place and records the damage and looting in the city. The Handbook also details over 1,300 casualties, names prisoners and provides photographs of the rebels.

The Declaration of an Irish Republic was made on April 24th 1916 when P. H. Pearse read the Proclamation outside the General Post Office (GPO). Images in the Handbook includes those of Pearse, Thomas Clarke and Thomas MacDonagh executed on May 3rd, Joseph Plunkett executed on May 4th, Edmund Kent executed on May 8th and John McDermott and James Connolly executed on May 12th. On April 29th after much fighting and finding themselves outnumbered  the members of the provisional government unconditionally surrendered  and ordered their comrades to lay down their arms. The detailed accounts of the rebellion are supplemented by facsimiles of original documents as well as the names, addresses and occupations of over 3,000 rebels arrested and interned. It remains one of the most important documents detailing the period and is available to view for free through the Boston Public Library: Sinn Fein Rebellion Handbook

One account from the Handbook refers to an attempt to blow up Nelson's Pillar:

An eye witness of the effort states that he was proceeding to the south side of the city from the north on Tuesday 25th April at 7am. On reaching the foot of Rutland Square he saw an armed rebel driving the spectators up Sackville Street and into Great Britain Street. At this corner the crowd lingered and the rebel ordered the crowd to "get out of the firing line" and added with a dramatic whirl of his bayonet, "The Nelson Pillar is about to be blown up with bombs".