Pre 19th Century
The National Archives. The National Archives in Dublin hold the 1798 Rebellion Papers, the 1803 Rebellion Papers and the State of the Country Papers from 1790 to 1830, which contain widespread material of military interest. Information includes yeomanry and militias, courts martial reports, and intelligence notes on organisations such as the Fenians.
Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. Militia and yeomanry lists for Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Derry and Tyrone from the 1600s are held at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland. Other sources, including material on the United Irishmen and the 1798 Rebellion, can also be checked at Public Records Office.
National Army Museum. British military history from 1485 until 1914 is covered by the National Army Museum in London , Royal Hospital Road , Chelsea , London SW3 4HT, Tel: 0044 20 7730 0717.
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Post 19th Century
Military Service. For those interested in the Irish soldier who served in the Irish Defence Forces and armed forces such as those of the United Kingdom, the USA, Australia and Canada since the late nineteenth century, one has a reasonable chance of finding relevant information in national and military archives.
When researching the Irish Defence Forces, the starting point is Military Archives at Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin 6. Medals’ Files, detailing the recipients of medals for service from 1916 to 1921 are held in Cathal Brugha Barracks and are accessible to proven next of kin. Those who served in the National Army after 1922 were awarded pensions through the Army Pensions Act of 1923. Those who fought on the Anti – Treaty side in the Civil War became entitled to pensions under the 1934 Military Service Pensions Act. These records can also be accessed on line, or through Military Archives in Cathal Brugha Barracks. Over 1,700 witness statements, recorded by the Bureau of Military History, are now also accessible on line and on site at the Military Archives.
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The Collins Papers dealing with various aspects of organisation of the Irish Volunteers, Irish Republican Army and the National Army from 1913-1922 are also held by Military Archives.
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Certificate of Service.
Relatives of those who were awarded a 1916 Medal and or a War of Independence Medal can now apply for a certificate of service. Unfortunately, it is not possible at this time to reissue original medals. The certificate will be issued to the nearest direct next-of-kin. Please write to the following address for this service: Veterans’ Administration Section, Department of Defence, Renmore, Galway. The application should include personal details such as full name (and any variations in spelling), date of birth, the address(s) resided at during the period in which relatives may have made the application (1924 to 1949) and the name of any next of kin at that time. In parallel, relatives should also access the web site of Military Archives, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Dublin 6.
Individuals who served during the 1916 Rising, or during the War of Independence, may have made an application for a medal or pension in respect of their service. Pensions were awarded under the 1924 and subsequent Pension Acts. Due to data protection requirements, these pension records are currently available to direct next of kin only. Direct next of kin should write to the following address for information in respect of their relatives’ service during 1916 and the War of Independence: Veterans’ Administration Section, Department of Defence, Renmore, Galway. The application should include personal details such as full name (and any variations in spelling), date of birth, the address(s) resided at during the period in which relatives may have made the application (1924 to 1949) and the name of any next of kin at that time.
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Bureau of Military History – Witness Statements
A joint effort by Military Archives and National Archives Dublin, involving the digitisation of 1,773 witness statements in the Bureau of Military History collection has provided a significant resource for researchers of the period 1916 to 1923. In addition to statements taken in the period between 1947 and 1957, there is an online collection of 400 photographs and 13 voice recordings.
Details can be accessed through the Military Archives Web Site >>
Local Defence Force
Service in the Local Defence Force during the Emergency is recorded in the Local Defence Force Files and Rolls, both held by Military Archives.
Material on Defence Forces participation in Peace Support Operations conducted under the auspices of the UN, EU, OSCE or NATO PfP are also held at Cathal Brugha Barracks.
Service in the pre 1916 Irish Volunteers, the Cumann na mBan , the Citizen Army and the IRA after 1919 can be traced through a variety of collections held in diverse institutions. While there is absolutely no guarantee of tracing a particular individual’s record, there are strong possibilities of discovering more about activities in a particular area.
Major historical resources for the 1916-1923 period are held at UCD Archives in Dublin. Among these are the papers of revolutionaries such as Sean MacEoin, Richard Mulcahy, The O’Rahilly, Ernie O’Malley, Moss Twomey, and Sighle Humphreys. In the cases of MacEoin and Mulcahy, there is also much valuable information on the organisation of the Irish Army after 1922. There are also over 350 interviews with veterans of the period conducted by Ernie O’Malley, as well as separate collections of documents relating to the Irish Volunteers. Post-1922 Army re-organisation and Irish Army Intelligence work can be examined through the papers of Colonel Dan Bryan.
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
There are also many documents relevant to this period, including material on the Ulster Volunteer Force and the IRA in Ulster, at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Among these are the papers of Ulster Volunteers organisers General Sir George Richardson and Colonel Fred Crawford, county-by-county records of the Ulster Volunteer Force and memoirs of the Larne gunrunning. The files on republican prisoners interned after 1922 are also now open to the public.
Visit their website PRONI
Personal Records Defence Forces or National Army
Personnel records are currently only available to the direct next of kin. If the subject of the research retired less than 30 years, contact should be made to Commissioned Officers’ Management Office in respect of commissioned officers and Enlisted Personnel Section in respect of enlisted personnel. The address for both sections is DFHQ, Station Road, Newbridge, Co Kildare. If the subject retired more than 30 years, contact should be made with Military Archives, Cathal Brugha Barracks, Rathmines, Dublin 6. Applications should include a signed letter of application for personnel records along with copies of birth cert(s) to establish an applicant’s relationship to the subject being researched. A death certificate may be required for the subject and/or a sworn affidavit stating the next of kin relationship. In exceptional circumstances, immediate next of kin may give permission to a third party researcher to proceed with an enquiry on their behalf.
UK’s Ministry of Defence
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence holds the service records for soldiers who served after 1922 until the mid 1990s. These are available from the Army Records Centre: Army Records Centre, DR2B Bourne Avenue, Hayes, Middlesex UB3 1RF. The Army Records Centre will release records to proven next of kin for an appropriate fee.
British Army and Naval Records
The United Kingdom’s National Archives provides an extensive number of links regarding British Army personnel before and after 1913, disability and dependents’ pensions in World War 1, courts-martial and desertion from the 17th to 20th centuries, army nurses and women in the British Army. Links for the Royal Navy include ratings 1853 – 1923, and after 1923, ratings’ pensions, warrant officers, commissioned officers, pensions, volunteer reserve, womens’ service and nurses. Royal Air Force links include: Air Force personnel, Naval Air Service, Flying Corps, Women’s Royal Air Force, Nurses and Fleet Air Arm.
Pre-1914 British Army Service Records
These service records are held at the Public Record Office: Ruskin Avenue, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU, Tel: 004420 8392 5200. The Public Record Office has also made First World War soldiers’ and non commissioned officers’ service records available, although many of these were lost through bombing during the Second World War. For details check http://www.pro.gov.uk/
British Army WWI Pension Records 1914-1920
This database, based on the Ancestry UK Web Site, contains service records of non-commissioned officers and other ranks who were discharged from the Army and claimed disability pensions for service in World War I. These were also men who did not re-enlist in the Army prior to World War 2. Approximately 5 million men served in the British Army in World War 1 and these records contain many of them, especially if they claimed a pension.
British Army Medals
British Army Medal Index Cards 1914-1920 record the medals that men and women who served in the First World War were entitled to claim. The series of index cards with information on over 5 million individuals can be found on the Web Site of the National Archives UK.
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Commonwealth War Graves
Information on a relative who was killed in the First or Second World War, in either British or Commonwealth service can be accessed from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, by post or online:
Commonwealth War Graves Commission,
2 Marlow Road, Maidenhead,
Berkshire SL6 7D, Tel:0044 1628 634221.
Consulting the Commission’s “Debt of Honour” register, one should be able to trace a relative who died in either World War. The register lists the names of 1.7 million members of the British and Commonwealth forces who died in both World Wars, and of over 60,000 British civilians who died in World War Two. The Commission’s Web Site provides information on cemeteries, burial plots, names, and memorials across 153 countries worldwide.
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London’s Imperial War Museum
This Museum has published a series of excellent guides to tracing service in the British Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Merchant Navy. These are available from Family History at the:
Imperial War Museum,
London SE1 6HZ.
Tel: 0044 20 7416 5320.