Fermanagh Gold Introduction
 
INTRODUCTION TO THE PUBLIC RECORD OFFICE OF NORTHERN IRELAND (PRONI)

The Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (P.R.O.N.I.) was established under the Public Records Act (Northern Ireland) 1923 and opened to the public in March of 1924 in Belfast.

Set up against a backdrop of civil war and partition, to establish such an archive at this time seemed a mammoth task. Just 2 years previously with the destruction of the Four Courts in Dublin, records to 1006 parishes in Ireland were totally lost for ever.
To make matters worse all census records for Ireland from 1821-1891 had been reduced to pulp by order of the Government in 1914.

The first Deputy Keeper, Dr. D.A. Chart, who had been on the staff in Dublin, was well acquainted with the records which had been lost. Duplicates, copies, transcripts and abstracts were assembled as replacements for many of the lost documents through application to other repositories, government departments, private collections, solicitor's offices and individuals who had worked with the originals.

One of the most valuable collections available is that of Tennison Groves (the Groves Collection ref T/808) Groves had been a staff member in Dublin and during his time there had transcribed by hand a vast collection of data in relation to the six counties of Ulster. Time and again you will notice the ref T/808.

All Churches were contacted of all denominations and their registers copied and placed on mircrofilm. P.R.O.N.I. now hold almost a complete archive of all Church records for Northern Ireland some as old as 1630

A programme of advertising requesting family documents, genealogical collections and estate records was also adopted and the end result was that P.R.O.N.I. is now the main source for genealogical records relating to Northern Ireland.

What makes P.R.O.N.I. unique and different from all other archival institutions in the British Isles is it's combination of both private and public records. No other institution can lay claim to this. It is at the same time Public Records Office, Manuscripts Department of a National Library and County Records Office all under one roof.

This range of remit ensured that P.R.O.N.I. was to be the repository for all court and departmental records as well as a place of deposit and safekeeping for privately owned archives. It is of incalculable benefit to genealogists and members of the public that archival material of whatever provenance from within Northern Ireland and further afield has been gathered together, preserved and is available for inspection in one place.

The first time visitor to P.R.O.N.I. can be overwhelmed and indeed intimidated by the sheer wealth of material available but the staff there welcome each new visitor individually and provide help and advice in a very friendly and professional manner.

For anyone considering embarking on a search at P.R.O.N.I. I would offer a little advice. Before beginning your search, it is important to discover as much background information as possible from talking to parents, grandparents aunts uncles etc. Get as many names, dates and locations as you can. If the family lived in one location for some time it is worthwhile visiting graveyards for family inscriptions giving names, dates of birth and death and so on. Examine old photographs if you can and check the reverse for names. The Family Bible is always a useful source. All this information helps to build up the picture and when the opportunity arrives to examine P.R.O.N.I. resources you have a real fighting chance of finding the information you seek.

It would be impossible for me to list every record and resource available to researchers but I have noted a few which will be of particular interest to anyone from Fermanagh (where possible I have given the P.R.O.N.I. reference as this can be a great help to first time visitors)

  • 1630 Fermanagh Muster Rolls T/510/2
  • 1631 Fermanagh Muster Rolls T/934
  • 1680 Book of Survey and Distribution for County Fermanagh D/1854/1/1-23
  • 1659 Census of Fermanagh T/808/15064
  • 1665-1666 Hearth Money Rolls for Fermanagh T/808/15066
  • 1662-1666 Subsidy Roll for Town of Enniskillen T/808/15068
  • 1660 Poll tax returns for Fermanagh mic/15a/80
  • 1766 Census of Fermanagh T/808/15264
  • 1796 Flax growers Bounty List of Farmers in Fermanagh T/3419
  • 1824-1834 Tithe Applotments Books listed by townland (various references)
  • 1848-1864 Valuation Of Ireland (known as Griffith's Valuation) lists and gives details of every householder and occupier in Fermanagh.
  • 1845- All Church Records (births marriages deaths) in relation to every Parish in Fermanagh (various ref.)
    for every denomination
  • 1792-1898 Grand Jury (county council) records for Fermanagh Fer/4/1-3
  • 1747-1788 Voters and freeholders in County Fermanagh T/808
  • 1796-1802 Freeholders of Fermanagh T/808
  • Crown and Peace records for Fermanagh (court records) Fer/7/3/1
  • Militia and yeomanry lists
  • 1761 Militia officers
  • 1794-1799 Muster rolls and pay records
  • 1799-1802 Muster Rolls and pay records (each landlord was expected to provide a militia from among his tenants)
  • Hospital and Charity records in relation to County Fermanagh Hos/28/1
  • Poor Law Union Records
  • Enniskillen Workhouse BG/14
  • Lisnaskea Workhouse BG/20
  • Lowtherstown/Irvinestown Workhouse BG/15
  • School roll books in relation to Co. Fermanagh Schools most from 1833 some earlier. ref; Sch/

As I say this is by no means all that can be examined, but just the bigger collections. In addition there are The Estate Records for all the County Fermanagh Estates giving land leases and agreements plus rental records of each family within that Estate.


Robert Williams Mar 2002