IrelandXO Insight - Trade Directories and other sources

Wednesday, 3 June, 2020
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Trade Directories can be useful when researching members of the gentry, and the professional, merchant and trading classes. They can help locate where exactly in the larger towns a family lived and can be the only precise indication of occupation.

Classes excluded from Trade Directories include: small tenant farmers, landless labourers and servants. It is worth noting that every entry is at least 6 months out of date by the time of publication. Trade Directories for Dublin and the rest of Ireland can be found in the National Library of Ireland and the National Archives of Ireland, as well as Galway City Library.

They can also be accessed online here: 

www.failteromhat.com or http://www.censusfinder.com/ireland

Some useful directories include:

  • The Gentlemen’s and Citizen’s Almanack (1736 -1844)
  • Wilson’s Directory (1751 to 1837 with a break 1754-59)
  • Watson’s Almanack, Wilson’s Directory and the English Court Registry bound together and known as ‘The Treble Almanack’ (1787-1837)
  • Pettigrew and Oultons Dublin Almanac and General Register of Ireland (1834) (this included street by street listing, clubs, societies, clergy etc.)
  • Thom’s Irish Almanac and Official Directory (1844 to the present). The 1870 edition includes nationwide lists: army officers, attorneys, doctors, etc. Generally a Dublin directory, it can also be useful for the entire country.
  • Pigot & Co Provincial Directory of Ireland (1820 and 1824) and Slater’s Commercial Directory of Ireland (1846, 56, 70, 81, 94) were country-wide publications. Very little exists before the introduction of the Pigot & Co. Directory. 
  •  Although not strictly directories, the following are also useful:  George Taylor and Andrew Skinners, Road Maps of Ireland, (1778), William Wilson, The Post Chaise Companion (1786),  Ambrose Leet’s Directory (1812, 1814)

Additional Record Sources

Old Age Pensions Act 1908

Enacted January 1909 in the first three months 261,668 applications were made. By March 1910, 180,974 Irish pensions were in force. Take-up rate in Ireland was 98.6%

  • Form 37: Pension Officers sent the particulars of the claimant on a Form 37 to be checked against the census for the townland or address provided to see if the claimant could be discovered and his/her eligibility confirmed. If they could not find the claimant, the form 37 was returned with ‘not found’ or ‘no trace’
  • The Green Forms: Some people chose to directly commission the PRO to search the old censuses on their behalf. The PRO staff filled in what are now known as ‘green forms’. The collection originally dated 1909, but the first 5 years of records were eventually pulped. The majority of the green forms date from 1915 to April 1922
  • Ages: ages listed in 1841 and 1851 census returns can vary greatly for the same person. Many inaccuracies occur and the researcher should be aware of this. One of the frequently found errors was that grandchildren were listed as nephews and nieces. Sometimes more than one record was found for a family. Investigator may have tried to find family under surname, location, etc.
  • There are two books published by Josephine Masterson about the Irish pension records :

    Ireland 1841/1851 Census Abstracts (Republic of Ireland),
    Ireland 1841/1851 Census Abstracts (Northern Ireland)

Newspapers

Always check the main records first! With so many records destroyed in 1922 though, newspapers can provide a very rich source of information:

  • Marriages: Broader range of information: Can contain: names, addresses, occupations, fathers’ names. For many 18th Century marriages, a newspaper announcement may be the only surviving record, especially where the relevant Church of Ireland register has not survived
  • Obituaries: This is the most numerous newspaper announcement and it covers a broad social spectrum. Can contain: name, address, place of death, occupation, exact age and family relationships. Lack of Catholic burial records, make these the most comprehensive surviving records of the deaths of the majority of middle classes
  • Elopements: A husband would announce that his wife had absconded, and disclaim all responsibility for any debts she might contract. Usually his address and her maiden name are given. 
  • Business announcements: The most useful are those which record the place and nature of the business, which announce a change of address or ownership for the business, or which record the succession of a son to a business after his father’s death. Tradesmen and professional advertisements
  • Bankruptcies: These generally request creditors to gather at a specified time and place, and can be useful in narrowing the focus of a search for relevant transactions in the Registry of Deeds
  • Other Information: news of the day, concentrating on the details of court cases with particular relish. This is especially interesting for those who have an ancestor who was a convict! You need to know the date of conviction, as well as the area in which the trial is likely to have taken place.  
  • Who was covered: the nobility were reported with great interest, and their births, marriages and deaths are well covered. Merchant and professional classes also well covered in regional newspapers. Farming gentry, then the less well-off traders (advertisements). No information at or below middling farmer level (most of the population).
  • Bias: Early 19th century papers were selective in their coverage of news. If you are aware of a significant event that occurred on an estate but find no report of it in a local newspaper, this should not be regarded as proof that the event did not take place. The editor may not wish to offend readers. It is important to identify the owners and editors of local newspapers and their politics. Early newspaper editors often relied on local landlords or agents or local schoolteachers to supply them with their news items. At national level, for example, the Irish Times had an obvious unionist bias in the 19th century, while the Freeman’s Journal had nationalist tendencies. As a researcher, you can view events and reactions to them from opposing perspectives.

What next?

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