The Petty Sessions Order Books for Ireland from 1850-1910 have now been made available online.
Find My Past Ireland has launched online for the first time the Petty Sessions Order Books (1850-1910), which it describes as one of the greatest untapped resources for those tracing their Irish roots.
Find My Past says: “The original Petty Sessions records held at the National Archives of Ireland were scanned by FamilySearch and have now been transcribed and made fully searchable by Find My Past Ireland. The records cover all types of cases, from allowing trespass of cattle to being drunk in charge of an ass and cart.
“These were the lowest courts in the country, which dealt with the vast bulk of legal cases, both civil and criminal. This first batch of entries contains details of 1.2 million cases, with most records giving comprehensive details of the case including: name of complainant, name of defendant, names of witnesses, cause of complaint, details of the judgement, details of a fine if any, and details of a sentence passed down if any. Another 15 million cases are to follow throughout 2012.
“This first batch of records is particularly useful for areas of the country for which family history records are notoriously sparse such as Connaught and Donegal.
“The reasons for cases being brought before the Petty Sessions Court are incredibly varied, but unsurprisingly the most common offence was drunkenness, which accounted for over a third of all cases. The top five offences tried before the courts were:
- Drunkenness – 33%
- Revenue/Tax offences – 21%
- Assault – 16%
- Local acts of nuisance – 5%
- Destruction of property – 4%
“The nature of these cases was significantly different from those in England. Figures show that the rate of conviction for drunkenness was three times greater, four times greater for tax offences, 65% higher for assault, and twice as likely for ‘malicious and wilful destruction of property’ than that of our nearest neighbours.
“The records are full of the minor incidents which are representative of the vast majority of cases which were brought before the Resident Magistrates. For example, we have Michael Downey of Athlone, Co. Westmeath who was charged with being ‘drunk while in charge of an ass and cart in a public area’, Pat Curley of Cloonakilla, Co. Westmeath who was charged with causing ‘malicious injury to a bicycle’, the five men and women all convicted of ‘tippling in a sheebeen’ (drinking in an unlicensed premises) on Queen Street, Athlone and given fines of between £1 and £5 or the five men who were charged with disturbing the Reverend J.W. Davidson as he was ‘ministering a divine service’ in Bundoran, Co.Donegal.”