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BI 2023 Ireland Course

Irish Law and Government Documents

Join instructors David E. Rencher and Rick Sayre for an exciting course of instruction digging into the law and government documents of Ireland! This updated course from 2016 includes seven new sessions and updated information to the prior course, including a master bibliography.

These records are full of materials for the landed as well as the poor and landless in Ireland. Numerous records were created over four centuries as the English tried to hold onto control of Ireland by enacting laws to govern the population.

Fifteen sessions developed especially for Irish research:

  • Irish/English Court & Legal Records and the Four Courts of Chancery, King’s Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer (Rencher)
  • Beyond the Four Courts: Auxiliary Courts & Their Records (Rencher)
  • Ecclesiastical Law and the Family Historian (Rencher)
  • Introduction to Irish Law Libraries (Sayre)
  • Encumbered Estates Court (Rencher)
  • Government Departments and Record Classes (Rencher)
  • State Papers of Ireland (Rencher)
  • Local Government—Incorporated Boroughs (Rencher)
  • Introduction to the Penal Laws in Ireland (Rencher)
  • The Poor Law Unions and Board of Guardians (Sayre)
  • Petty Sessions & Quarter Sessions (Sayre)
  • Introduction to Parliament and the Acts of Parliament (Rencher)
  • British Parliamentary Papers (Rencher)
  • The National Archives of England and Ireland (Rencher)
  • Petitions to Parliament & Petitions to Ecclesiastical Leaders (Sayre)

Your Instructors

David E. Rencher, AG®, CG®, FUGA, FIGRS
Coordinator and Instructor

David E. Rencher, AG, CG, FUGA, FIGRS, is employed as the Chief Genealogical Officer for FamilySearch. A professional genealogist since 1977, he is one of the rare few who have earned both credentials: Accredited Genealogist with ICAPGen in Ireland research (1981) and Certified Genealogist with the Board for Certification of Genealogists (2006). He is the Irish course coordinator and instructor for the Institute of Genealogical and Historical Research in Athens, Georgia, and the Genealogical Research Institute of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He graduated from Brigham Young University in 1980 with a BA in Family and Local History. He is a past-president of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) 1997–2000, a past-president of the Utah Genealogical Association (UGA) 1993–1995 and a Fellow of that organization. He is a fellow of the Irish Genealogical Research Society, London. He is the past chair of the joint National Genealogical Society and International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies committee for the Record Preservation and Access Coalition. He serves as a director on the board of the National Genealogical Society and as a counselor for the New England Historic Genealogical Society.

Rick Sayre, CG®, CGLSM, FUGA

Rick Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA, is a long-time researcher, instructor, and lecturer at national conferences and seminars. Rick co-coordinates with Judy Russell, JD, CG, CGL, the Law School for Genealogists at GRIP, and the FSL Law Library course at SLIG. He also coordinates the Using Maps in Genealogy course and instructs in the Advanced Methodology course, both offered by SLIG. Rick instructs in the Irish research courses developed by David Rencher, CG, AG, FUGA, FIGRS. Rick’s areas of expertise encompass military and land records, the use of maps in genealogy research, urban research, the National Archives, and government documents, and Irish research. Rick, a past president of the BCG, is also a trustee of the Board for Certification of Genealogists. 

Course Description:

Irish/English Court & Legal Records and the Four Courts of Chancery, King’s Bench, Common Pleas, and Exchequer

This presentation lays the foundation for understanding the records of the Irish legal systems from Brehon Law to the present day. Ireland’s legal system is a blend of the Manorial court and the English common law systems. The course also provides an understanding of the role of each of the Four Equity Courts of Chancery, Exchequer, Common Pleas, and King’s (Queen’s) Bench along with the officers of these courts and the records each created.

Beyond the Four Courts: Auxiliary Courts and their Records (Rencher)

This session focuses on the records of legal jurisdictions in Ireland other than the Four Courts of Equity. Courts included are Admiralty, Assize, Bankruptcy, Insolvency, Incumbered & Landed Estates, Baron, Leet, Piepowder, Manor, Petty Sessions, Quarter Sessions, Star Chamber, Tholsel, and Ward & Liveries.

Ecclesiastical Law and the Family Historian (Rencher)

This session establishes the basis for ecclesiastical law and its application to the family historian. The organization of the ecclesiastical court system and a strategy for searching these priceless records is included.

Introduction to Irish Law Libraries and their Records (Sayre)

In this session we discuss how to locate libraries with Irish law collections. We explore the kind of records and their genealogical value. You will also acquire knowledge of the internet resources available. The creation and use of a research plan will be discussed. 

Encumbered Estates Court (Rencher)

The Poor Law Act of 1836 set the stage for the downfall of many of the landed estates. During the Great Famine, the demands of the poor law unions could not be met by many landlords and their estates fell into insolvency. The Incumbered Estates Court was established to handle the sales and forfeitures of the great landed estates.

Government Departments and Record Classes (Rencher)

Much like government departments in the United States and Canada, the government departments in England and Ireland are required to transfer their records to the National Archives of Ireland and The National Archives, London. Understanding how these records are divided into record classes leads to successful searches for information on individuals and families.

State Papers of Ireland (Rencher)

The State Papers are a key resource for studying the social and religious history in Ireland for the years 1509-1782. The records cover the cross-section of religious denominations and early settlers to Ireland. These are considered a key resource for tracing genealogies in Ireland back into the 16th century.

Local Government—Incorporated Boroughs (Rencher)

Local government went through an extensive period of reform, particularly during the 19th century, primarily led by Daniel O’Connell. Representation by Catholics as town commissioners, entry into municipal corporations and the poor law unions changed the political face of Ireland. This session explores the framework and records of local government.

Introduction to the Penal Laws in Ireland (Rencher)

A century of penal laws in Ireland had a lasting ripple effect into later centuries and even today. Understanding how the laws impacted all three major religious groups is key to understanding the behaviors they drove. This session helps identify the major laws impacting the Irish population.

The Poor Law Unions and Board of Guardians (Sayre)

Poor Law Unions were established in 1839 Under the Irish Poor Law Act. This led to the establishment of workhouses. The records (Board of Guardians Minute Books, workhouse registers, etc.) of the unions identify paupers, staff, teachers, and contractors. These may be the only records we find on the poor and the landless. FMP has a large online collection of Minute Books.

Petty Sessions and Quarter Sessions (Sayre)

Petty sessions were the lowest level courts in Ireland in the nineteenth century. They tried cases such as drunkenness, assault, tax issues and other small crimes. Quarter Sessions (they met four times a year) heard more serious criminal cases. Petty Session Courts were set up the 1820s, but the records largely date from 1851 to 1924 and are held by NAI. However, FMP has scanned these records. Currently they hold over 23 million records. These records are useful for social history and discovering where people lived. You can expect the names of the defendant, complainant, and witnesses. Northern Ireland records are not digitized and are held in PRONI. Quarter Session records are held at NAI within the records of the Offices of the Clerks of Crown and Peace. 

Introduction to Parliament and the Acts of Parliament (Rencher)

This session outlines the historical relationship between the English and Irish Parliaments and the events that led to the Act of Union of 1801, and the ultimate establishment of the Irish Free State in 1921.

British Parliamentary Papers Relating to Ireland I (Rencher)

The British Parliamentary Papers are analogous to the records of Congress in the United States. In this case, the fact that Ireland was always a challenge to manage is a boon to Irish genealogists due to the wealth of records created because of centuries of addressing these challenging issues, most notably the famine and emigration. With over one-thousand printed volumes, there is a wealth of information to explore in addition to the many petitions made to Parliament. This session will identify complete printed collections and the content of interest to genealogists.

The National Archives of England and Ireland (Rencher)

There are three major national archives with materials relevant to research in Ireland, e.g., The National Archives, London; the National Archives of Ireland, Dublin; and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast. Understanding their records and catalogues will be the focus of this session.

Petitions to Parliament and Petitions to Ecclesiastical Leaders (Sayre)

In the nineteenth century people petitioned parliament for a variety of reasons such as divisions of inheritance and other personal matters. People also petitioned their ecclesiastical leaders. Often it was about clergy and their actions. We may find kinship information in these records.

Pricing: Please see this page for British Institute pricing and discounts.

Other available courses:

Once More into the Breach (England)

Scottish Research: The Fundamentals and Beyond