Introduction to Archives
“History is made with documents. Documents are the imprints left of the thoughts and the deeds of the men of former times. For nothing can take the place of documents. No documents, no history.” Charles-Victor Langlois and Charles Seignobos, Introduction aux études historiques (1897). Translated by Eamon de Valera in a letter from prison to Kathleen O’Connell, his personal secretary, 2nd February 1924, requesting her to safeguard his papers in some form or Archives.
Archives acquire, preserve and make available to the public, records of special significance and enduring value. Archives may take many forms, such as correspondence, diaries, files, reports, service details, legal documents, plans, photographs, maps, drawings, audio and visual recordings, and electronic documents. Archives and manuscripts are fragile and unique and must be kept and used under strict conditions if they are to survive for the use of future generations.
Records of a military nature which merit preservation and retained as archives can be accessed in national and institutional archives. Such records have significant research potential, as they provide primary source material.
National Archives normally provide services to the public, making records available and accessible for inspection, either online or on site. Records held in archives are irreplaceable and in some cases are digitilised for ease of access. Encouraging visits, appropriate arrangements are normally made for public access to archives.
The major repositories for records relating to Irish military records include the MilitaryArchives, the National Archives of Ireland, the National Library of Ireland, University College Dublin Archives, (all in Dublin), the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (in Belfast) and the Public Record Office (in London).
Service records held in Military Archives of many nations, such as United States of America (War of 1812, Civil War, Vietnam War), can often provide valuable information on the Irish soldier.
Archive staff are committed to providing researchers the best possible assistance, making full advantage of time, and giving an effective on site experience.
Researchers are encouraged to contact the archive before making a research visit, providing a description of the subject under research and seeking permission to visit the archive. This prior contact will facilitate information on procedures, entry points, search path, the identification of records on site and on line, and the availability of records.
Archives are often subject to restrictions of space and resources. They are often extremely busy, so be prepared for occasional delays, and remember that the staff is often under considerable pressure. It should be noted that staff cannot undertake the required research, but will provide information about the records. However, some Archives, such as the National Archives of the United Kingdom, have listings of private researchers who can find the relevant information for a fee, which may be more cost effective than trying to find the material by oneself.
Service information on individual soldiers is available from some archives either online or on-site, depending on circumstances. Generally speaking, on-site service information on individuals will only be released to proven next of kin, or with the permission of the individual’s family. It is advisable to have as much information as possible on an individual before commencing either online or on-site research.
For the information of researchers, a directory of archives is provided on the web site under Directory Listings.
The Trust encourages those in charge of archives to provide information on their facility for posting in this web site. Likewise, any necessary changes to the information concerning archives posted on this web site would be welcomed.
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