Inventory of loss and survival

When Dublin’s Four Courts went up in flames, seven centuries of Ireland’s historical and genealogical records were lost. In one afternoon, hundreds of thousands of English government records concerning Ireland, dating back to the 13th century, were destroyed—seemingly forever.

As well as documenting the growth of the state in Ireland across many centuries — including records of the payment of taxes, the enactment of laws and the birth of the Irish parliament — the archive’s collections touched on almost every aspect of life in Ireland including births, marriages and deaths, as well as wills, maps, parish registers and town records from across the island.

For generations, the loss of these precious historical documents has hampered the study of Ireland’s past, limiting our understanding of family, local and national history as well as Ireland's connected history with Britain and the wider world. However, new technology, historical research and careful archival practice mean that the losses are not irrecoverable.

The Beyond 2022 team is working to assemble a complete inventory of loss and survival of the 1922 fire. In doing so, the team has identified ten main categories of surviving or substitute sources:

- Survivors: records that survived almost unscathed because they were held in the Reading Room of the Public Record Office, not the Record Treasury itself
- Salved records: records damaged by the fire, but not completely destroyed, now in varying states of conservation
- Duplicates of original records now held in partner archives
- Facsimile images made before 1922
- Antiquarian transcripts
- Printed editions
- Certified copies
- Published calendars summarizing the contents of the records
- Unpublished calendars in manuscript form
- Legal abstracts

Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury will gather into a single database all the information it can about these substitute sources from archives and libraries in Ireland and internationally. The entire archive will be fully searchable, with its contents ranging from basic descriptions to fully restored records ranging in date from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries.