Online publication of significant record set reveals the stories behind the Easter Rising and Ireland under Martial Law
17 April: Findmypast launches online today the most complete collection of British War Office records relating to the Easter Rising and Irish War of Independence from 1916-1921. The collection, digitised from original records held by The National Archives in Kew, reveals the struggles of life under Martial Law in Ireland, and demonstrates how events under the occupying military served to galvanise support for the rebels.
Totalling more than 75,000 records, the collection will be free to access for ten days at Findmypast from today, 17 April, in advance of the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising on 24 April 2016.
More than 3,000 people were injured or killed in a conflict which saw three civilians killed for every one rebel. The records reveal the impact that the conflict had on men, women and children across Ireland. There are eye-witness accounts, interviews with civilians and reports of the trials of the leaders of the Rising and their sentences of execution.
The once classified records shine new light on the subsequent period of Martial Law in Ireland which was declared by the Lord Lieutenant in 1916, including the War of Independence, when the British military assumed control of the executive, judiciary and legislative arms of the entire country.. The contents of the collection provide a picture of what life was like for ordinary citizens in Ireland during this turbulent time.
The 25,000 search and raid records show the efforts of the military and police to discover arms, ammunition and seditious material through thousands of raids as well as their search for individuals associated with Sinn Féin, Irish Citizen Army, Irish Volunteers and the Irish Republican Army. Members of the public accessing the records on Findmypast will find the names of the thousands of people who were detained and interned in prisons in Ireland, England and Wales and tried by courts martial, including the names of prominent nationalists and elected officials.
Military correspondence between the barracks in Dublin and the War Office in London grants new perspectives on the motivations and fears of the British Army leadership. The movements and actions of several key nationalist figures are also documented, including those of James Connolly, Eamon De Valera, Thomas Ashe, Joseph MacDonagh, Arthur Griffith, Padraig Pearse and Francis and Hannah Sheehy Skeffington and Countess Markievicz.
Key items from the collection include:
- Daily situation reports sent by the British Army from Dublin to London between 24 April and 12 May 1916 documenting events during the uprising
- A report from the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief confirming the execution of iconic Irish socialist and rebel James Connolly, who owing to injuries sustained in the conflict had to be strapped to a chair before being shot
- Court martial reports sentencing prominent nationalist, politician and suffragette Countess Markievicz to two years in prison for “assisting and promoting crime and murder”
- Witness statements from civilians caught up in the Rising
- Documents authored by Michael Collins seized from a safehouse used by the nationalist figurehead
- Details on raids of pubs such as the Brazen Head, hotels, nationalist club houses such as the Ancient Order of Hibernians and thousands of homes
- An urgent and secret warning from Sir C Spring Rice, British Ambassador in America, of gun running in Ireland
- A telegram to the Prime Minister to report the expected surrender of the rebels from the Lieutenant General John Marshall
- Internment files including the personal letters from prisoners or their relatives testifying to their innocence
- Details on the hunger strikes of interned prisoners
- Secret documents that reveal the British Military’s own concern with some of the behaviour of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC)
The collection was digitised in partnership with The National Archives in London and contains documents from their WO35 series, War Office: Army of Ireland: Administration and Easter Rising Records. Totalling more than 110 million records, Findmypast has the largest Irish family history collection available online, including millions of exclusive data sets published in partnership with The National Archives of Ireland, The National Archives UK, and a host of other local, county and national archives.
Brian Donovan, Head of Irish Records at Findmypast, comments:
“These records constitute an extraordinary resource which will transform the search for answers about our ancestors’ activities during 1916 and the years that followed. While those who fought were small in number, the war impacted on the lives of ordinary people in many ways. We’re extremely fortunate to have these records to help us make some sense of it.”
Neil Cobbett, Irish records expert at The National Archives, said:
“This represents a major contribution and potentially a vast step forward for public understanding of these events from all points of view. It will really help to throw light on the actions of participants and the whys and wherefores of what happened. Whether you are a researcher seeking answers to some of the bigger questions, or a family historian or biographer, this collection will help you in your historical research, or in finding out about your forebear’s or other participant’s involvement.”
The Easter Rising Collection can be searched here