Irish police files on villainous Victorians now released online

22 Aug 201682 Shares

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St Nahi's graveyard in Dundrum, Dublin

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Detailed police records from Victorian-era Ireland have been digitised and released online, featuring crimes as small as ferret stealing, all the way up to the Phoenix Park Murders of 1882.

The Irish police force – referred to as the Royal Irish Constabulary at the time – was meticulous with its record-keeping on all crimes committed within Ireland, and now records covering the 32 years between 1861 and 1893 have been digitised on Ancestry.ie.

According to The Irish Times, at that time the records were shared among the police force through its Police Gazette bulletin, alerting the force of known criminals, much like An Garda Síochána’s current PULSE system of today.

Among the personal details included in police records are people’s names, addresses and descriptions of thousands of people across the country during a time when civil strife was building during the time known as the Land War.

But perhaps the best-known case included in the records is an incident known as the Phoenix Park Murders of 1882.

Dispelling myths

As Ireland’s chief secretary Frederick Cavendish and permanent undersecretary Thomas Burke made their way through Phoenix Park, four members of the Irish Republic Brotherhood (IRB) splinter group, the National Invincibles, murdered the pair in cold blood.

According to the records, four men were wanted for their part in the high-profile assassination, with them being described as having “whiskers and moustache recently clipped to give a bristling appearance … natural hollow or dinge on bridge of nose … brown faded coat as if much exposed to sun … the men had the appearance of sailors or well-to-do artisans.”

The most common crime listed in these records is for assault, with a total of 28,353 cases, but not far behind are 28,092 cases of breaking of licence conditions and 23,345 incidents of theft.

Those who might be interested to see whether one of their ancestors had a less-than-appealing past can now, for a fee, search these records online.

Ancestry.ie’s historian, Rhona Murray, said that it will offer the public “the opportunity to look back into their own understanding of history and see if the myths are true”.

Graveyard image via William Murphy/Flickr

Colm Gorey is a journalist with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com