adds to Petty Sessions records


06 June 2012
AwaitingImage-26535.jpg Awaiting Image has released online the second batch of records from the Petty Sessions order books (1850-1910).This set of entries has released online the second batch of records from the Petty Sessions order books (1850-1910).

This set of entries contains information on more than 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 10 million cases are to follow throughout 2012.

If you have roots stretching back to counties Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, or Kilkenny you'll find this group of records particularly useful. A full list of counties and courts is detailed here.

The original Petty Sessions records held at the National Archives of Ireland were scanned by Family Search and have now been transcribed and made fully searchable by They 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 who dealt with the vast bulk of legal cases, both civil and criminal.

The first batch of records, released in February 2012, contained details of 1.2 million cases and is particularly useful for areas of the country for which family history records are notoriously sparse such as Connaught and Donegal.

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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:

  1. Drunkenness - 33%
  2. Revenue/Tax offences - 21%
  3. Assault - 16%
  4. Local acts of nuisance - 5%
  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 Ireland's nearest neighbours.

Brian Donovan, director of, said: ‘These court records open up a unique window into Irish society in the 19th century. Most families interacted with the law in one way or another, being perpetrators or victims of petty crime, resolving civil disputes, to applying for a dog licence. The records are full of the trauma and tragedy of local life, as family members squabbled, shop keepers recovered debt, and the police imposed order. These records help fulfil our mission to provide more than just names and dates, to get to the stories of our ancestors’ lives.’