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History Subject Guide: Primary sources

There are lots of libraries and archives around Dublin you can visit that hold primary source material. Here are some of our favourites! 

National Archives

Web: www.nationalarchives.ie
Location: Bishop Street, Dublin 8
How to search: Online catalogue www.nationalarchives.ie/search-the-archives
How to visit: Call in
Good for:

  • Public records for the modern Irish State 1922 (fire at the Four Courts in 1922 destroyed most of the public records gathered prior to that date)
  • Censuses
  • Business records
  • Chancery pleadings
  • Chief Secretary’s Office registered papers
  • Church of Ireland parish registers
  • Convict reference files
  • Coroners’ inquests
  • Dáil Éireann archives
  • Departmental records
  • Education records
  • Famine Relief Commission records
  • Ferguson manuscripts (parchment plea rolls)
  • Genealogical abstracts (Betham, Crosslé, Tenison Groves, Grove-White and Thrift)
  • General Prisons Board
  • Incumbered and Landed Estates Court rentals
  • Irish Record Commission calendars
  • Lodge’s manuscripts (lists denizens of Ireland)
  • Office of Public Works
  • Official papers
  • Ordnance Survey
  • Outrage reports
  • Private source records
  • Probate records
  • Quit Rent Office
  • Rebellion papers
  • Soldiers’ wills
  • Tithe applotment books (1823-1837)
  • Trade union archives
  • Transportation records
  • Valuation Office and Boundary Survey
  • Wills and testamentary records
  • Women’s history records

What else?

  • Beyond 2022 Project (amazing!)
  • Very good guides to research on the National Archives website on:
    • Records of the Crown and Peace
    • Sources on Ireland and European unity
    • Sources on national education
    • Records of the Office of Public Works
    • Records of the Ordnance Survey
    • Records of the Poor law
    • Sources on women’s history

National Library of Ireland

Web: www.nli.ie
Location: Kildare Street, Dublin 2
How to search: www.nli.ie/en/intro/catalogues-and-databases-introduction.aspx
How to visit: Apply for a reader’s ticket with photographic ID on the day of your visit
Good for:

  • A record of Irish history and heritage in print
  • Irish legal deposit (NLI holds all material published in Ireland)
  • Landed estate records
  • Maps
  • Photographs
  • Ephemera
  • Newspapers
  • Lists of Irish personnel in the British Army in late 19th and early 20th centuries

What else?

  • National Photographic Archive
    • Location: Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
    • How to visit: By appointment only and with an NLI reader’s ticket
    • Good for:
      • A record of Irish history and heritage in photographs

The Royal Irish Academy of Music

Web: www.riam.ie/about-us/Library
Location: 36-38 Westland Row, Dublin 2
How to search: Online @ http://library.riam.ie
How to visit: Contact in advance of visit and/or gain entry with a Music Pal card (available to music students only)
Good for:

  • Books
  • Journals
  • Performing, miniature and full scores
  • Orchestral and choral sets
  • Recordings in multiple formats
  • Printed music from the 18th and 19th centuries (special collections)

What else?

  • Collections of the Sons of Handel and the Antient Concerts Society
  • Collection of the Anacreontic Society
  • The Hudleston Society of solo and chamber music for guitar
  • The Joan Trimble Collection
  • Printed and manuscript works by RIAM composers
  • Listening stations

Irish Traditional Music Archive

Web: www.itma.ie
Location: 73 Merrion Square, Dublin 2
How to search: www.itmacatalogues.ie
How to visit: Call in. A Music Pal card also facilitates access (available to music students only)
Good for:

  • Sound recordings (commercial and non-commercial)
  • Books
  • Serials
  • Sheet music
  • Ballad sheets
  • Computer music engravings of melodies
  • Programmes
  • Music manuscripts
  • Ephemera
  • Photographs
  • Videos and DVDs
  • What else?
  • P W Joyce Irish music microsite
  • Inishowen song project microsite
  • Individual collections
  • More info here

The Contemporary Music Centre

Web: www.cmc.ie and https://www.cmc.ie/about-us/facilities-and-services
Location: 19 Fishamble Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 8
How to search: Online @ www.cmc.ie/library/index.cfm
How to visit: The Library and Sound Archive are open to the public, free of charge
Good for:

  • Works by Irish composers of the 20th and 21st centuries (including unpublished works). For reference, purchase or hire
  • Sound archive contains recordings of 20th and 21st century Irish classical music. For reference only
  • Includes a collection of 2000 recordings of orchestral, chamber and solo music broadcast by RTÉ
  • More info here

Irish Photo Archive

Web: www.irishphotoarchive.ie
Location: 17 Nottingham Street, North Strand, Dublin 3
How to visit: N/A portfolios online
Good for:

  • Photographs of significant events in Ireland (1952-)

Archbishop Marsh's Library

Web: www.marshlibrary.ie
Location: St. Patrick’s Close, Dublin 8
How to search: www.marshlibrary.ie/catalogue
How to visit: Entry to the Library is unrestricted but material is consulted by arrangement -apply in advance with photo ID
Good for:

  • Perfectly preserved (building and collections) Library of Archbishop Narcissus Marsh (1638-1713)
  • Books
  • Maps
  • Musical scores

Chester Beatty Library

Web: www.cbl.ie
Location: Dublin Castle, Dublin 2
How to search: https://opac.cbl.ie/libero/WebOpac.cls/
How to visit: Free admission
Good for:

  • Amazing collections reflecting the travels and interests of Sir Alfred Chester Beatty
    • East Asian collection
    • Islamic collection
    • Western collection
    • Book bindings
    • Calligraphy
    • East Asian art
    • Islamic art
    • History of writing
    • Prints and print making
    • Illuminated manuscripts
    • Chester Beatty personal archive (accessible by appointment only)

Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI)

Web: www.proni.gov.uk
Location: 2 Titanic Boulevard, Belfast BT3 9HQ
How to search: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/information-and-services/public-record-office-northern-ireland-proni/search-archives-online
How to visit: Call in with photographic ID
Good for:

  • Public records 1921-
  • Business records
  • Church registers
  • Government departmental records
  • Non-departmental records

What else?

  • Good introductions to significant privately deposited archives
  • NB. Some archives are held off-site so check the catalogue before you visit

National Botanic Gardens of Ireland Library

Web: www.botanicgardens.ie/lib/art.html
Location: National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin 9
How to visit: Access is by appointment only
Good for:

  • Botanical and horticultural books and periodicals
  • Floras
  • Botanical art
  • Lydia Shackleton Collection
  • Alice Jacob Collection
  • Charlotte Wheeler Cuffe (née Williams) Collection
  • George Victor du Noyer Collection
  • The Plunkett Volume Collection
  • Nursery catalogues

What else?

Dublin City Library and Archive

Web: www.dublincity.ie/RecreationandCulture/libraries/Pages/DublinCityLibrary.aspx www.dublincityarchives.ie
Location: First floor, 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin
How to search: Some catalogues available on the website
How to visit: Apply for a research card at the reading room issue desk. The card is free but you will need formal photographic ID to complete your application
Good for:

  • Records of the civic government of Dublin 1171- late 20th century
  • Documents pertaining to the Dublin City Assembly (to 1840) and Dublin City Council
  • Title deeds
  • Maps, plans and drawings of Dublin
  • Civic regalia collection
  • Pre 1840 collections
  • Dublin City charters 1171-1727
  • Guild records 1192-1841
  • Freedom records 1225-1922
  • Liber Albus or White Book of Dublin on the administration of Dublin (13th-17th century)
  • Chain Book of Dublin (14th-17th century)
  • Assembly rolls 1447-1841
  • Expired leases 1492-1869
  • Dublin City Staple Books 1596-1678
  • Tholsell Court records 1659-1762
  • Dublin City Surveyor records. Book of maps 1695-1827
  • Wide Streets Commissioners 1758-1851
  • Post 1840 collection
  • Dublin City Council minutes and committee reports
  • Dublin Mansion House Relief Fund records 1880
  • Rathmines and Rathgar township archives 1847-1930
  • Pembroke township archives 1863-1930
  • Civics Institute of Ireland records 1914-1960
  • Electoral lists 1937-1984
  • The bombing of Ireland during the Emergency 1940-1941 collection
  • 1916 Rising 90th anniversary collection
  • Irish theatre archive
  • Royal Dublin Fusiliers archive
  • Dublin City archaeological archive
  • Dublin City sports archive
  • Mount Street Club records 1934-2006

What else?

  • Church records
  • Civil records
  • Land records
  • www.dublinheritage.ie
    • Databases derived from printed and other historic records
    • Community Memory Database (commemorative plaques)
    • Electoral Lists databases (1908-1910 and 1939-1940)
    • Dublin Graveyards Directory
    • Ancient Freemen of Dublin Database
    • Parish records

National Folklore Collection of Ireland (including Schools Folklore Collection)

Web: www.duchas.ie
Location: University College Dublin; DCU Libraries holds the complete Schools’ Folklore element of the collection (‘Bailiúchán na Scol’) on microfilm.
What is it? The National Folklore Collection comprises manuscripts, photographs, sound and video recordings, The Schools’ Collection and folk music. It is one of the largest folklore collections in the world and dúchas.ie is the project digitising it. The Schools’ Folklore Collection comprises folktales, legends and oral history gathered by school children from 5000 schools in the Irish Free State between 1937 and 1939.
How to search: The Schools’ Collection is searchable by place, school, topic (see indexes in Cregan Library) and on duchas.ie by names of storytellers, children and teachers.

Military Archives

Web: www.militaryarchives.ie
Location: Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin 6
How to search: online and offline. www.militaryarchives.ie/en/collections/online-collections
How to visit: Make an appointment to visit the reading room
Good for:

  • Records of the Department of Defence
  • Records of the defence forces
  • Records of the Army Pensions Board
  • Naval Service records
  • Air Corps records
  • Army periodicals
  • Collections:
    • (Michael) Collins Collection (papers 1917-21 and working files of the Historical Section 1933-59)
    • Military Service Pensions Collection
    • Bureau of Military History (1913-21) Collection
    • Maps, Plans and Drawings (of military barracks construction and maintenance) Collection (1830-1980)
    • Military Archives Image Identification Project
    • Truce Liaison and Evacuation Papers (1921-22)
    • Civil War Captured Documents (1922-25)
    • Railway Protection Corps Collection (Civil War)
    • Coastal Defence Artillery Collection (1922-27 and 1938-57)
    • Irish Army Census (1922) Collection
    • Easter 1916 An tÓglách accounts
    • National emergency files (1939-46)
    • Emergency defence plans (1939-46)
    • Army Organisation Board Collection
    • Army Equitation School Collection (1926-80)
    • Military Mission / Temporary Plans Division (1926-28)
    • United Nations Unit Peacekeeping and Peace Enforcement Forces Histories (1958-82)
    • Press cuttings (1916-2000)
    • Office of the Controller of Censorship Collection (1939-45)
    • Personnel files for officers and enlisted personnel since 1922 (available to next of kin only)
    • Private collections

Houses of the Oireachtas

Web: www.oireachtas.ie
Location: Kildare Street, Dublin 2
How to search: Online. opac.oireachtas.ie/liberty/libraryHome.do
How to visit: N/A – most information is freely available on the website
Good for:

  • Parliamentary papers
  • All documents laid before the Dáil and Seanad
  • Annual reports
  • Reports of tribunals of inquiry
  • Committee reports
  • Committee debates
  • Dáil debates
  • Seanad debates
  • European Commission documents
  • Statutory instruments
  • Statements pursuant to the Ethics in public office act 1995
  • Statements in respect of special advisers to Ministers / Ministers of State
  • Annual registers of Members’ interests and donation statements / statutory declarations
  • Text of historical debates and speeches

Irish Statute Book

Web: www.irishstatutebook.ie
How to search: Online. Search for words or a phrase in the title of an act or statutory instrument
Good for:

  • Text of Bunreacht na hÉireann
  • Text of acts of the Oireachtas (1922-)
  • Text of statutory instruments (1922-)
  • Text of (most) pre-Union Irish statutes 1169-1800 still in force in the State following the enactment of the Statute law revision act 2007
  • Text of (most) statutes of Great Britain 1707-1800 still in force in the State following the enactment of the Statute law revision act 2007
  • Text of (most) statutes of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland 1801-1922 still in force in the State following the enactment of the Statute law revision act 2007

What else?

  • Legislation directory for tracking amendments made to acts

Northern Ireland Assembly

Web: www.niassembly.gov.uk
Location: Parliament Buildings, Stormont, Belfast, BT4 3XX
How to search: website
How to visit: N/A
Good for:

  • Current Assembly business
  • Primary and secondary legislation
  • Hansard reports (official report of the Northern Ireland Assembly)
  • Constituency profiles
  • Deposited papers re: parliamentary questions and answers
  • Minutes of proceedings (2011-)
  • Information on MLAs (via AIMS portal)