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The Calendar of State Papers Relating to Ireland, by David Dobson

Since the medieval period many of the records of the English government have been analyzed and inventoried in collections known as “Calendars.” The documents have been transcribed, abstracted, and listed in chronological order in a series of publications, such as Calendar of State Papers, Domestic; Calendar of State Papers, Spanish; Calendar of State Papers, America and the West Indies; and Calendar of State Papers, Ireland.

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The Calendar of State Papers, Ireland (CSP Ireland) is a relatively obscure, but invaluable, source that is greatly underused by genealogical researchers. The CSP Ireland series was published in London in installments from the mid-19th century onwards, and it is available, to varying degrees, in a number of libraries in North America, such as the Library of Congress, the New York Public Library, and Harvard University’s library. There are three series of CSP Ireland: the first is comprised of four volumes covering the years 1171 to 1307, the second is of nine volumes spanning 1509 to 1600, and the third is of 13 volumes from 1603 to 1670.

This article deals with the Third Series of the CSP Ireland as a source for family historians interested in their Irish ancestry on the eve of the great migration of Irish to the Americas that commenced in the 17th century.

The CSP Ireland consists of letters sent by the English Crown’s representative in Ireland–the Lord Lieutenant, or some other official–to the Secretary of State in London. The contents include correspondence from civil servants, military men, and members of the public, as well as abstracts of answers to such mail; accounts of expenditure or requests for funds; orders given to government officers in Ireland; proposals regarding English colonization in Ireland or for developing the economy; reports on the state of Ireland, etc.  

The CSP Ireland is a mine of information on individuals, making it of paramount importance to researchers of Irish history and genealogy. The volumes are also easy to use, as they are well indexed from 1509 to 1670 in the CSP Ireland. From 1670 to 1700 they are included in Calendar of State Papers, Domestic. While the published documents end around 1700, there are manuscript collections relating to the British government and Ireland in the National Archives in London. The National Archives holds lists, while the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in Belfast has much fuller lists for the later period; these, however, are incomplete and unindexed, which makes them difficult to use.

As explained above, the CSP Ireland contains a wide-ranging collection of documents, many of which contain data of interest to the family historian. Consider the following illustrations:

“19 October 1669, Dublin. The following Tories have been brought to Dublin.  They have surrendered themselves to be transported beyond the seas: Owen Duff McDonnell, Rory McDonnell, Fernando or Ferdorrough MacDonnell, Gilesprig McDonnell.”

“In 1699 King William III granted James Roch the forfeited estates of Andrew Murrogh of Ballenterry in County Cork and of Walter and George Nangle in County Meath.”

“In 1699 Catharine and Mary O’Hara petitioned King William III stating that their father Arthur O’Hara of Connough in Ireland had forfeited his estate through his support for King James. They had been brought up as Protestants by their mother and now petitioned for some allowance from their father’s former estate.”

“On 19 May 1699 Lord Galway wrote from Dublin Castle to James Vernon, Secretary of State, advising him that a Mr. Watkins of Cork was fitting out a ship there to take provisions to the new Scottish colony in America.”

“The Calendar of State Papers, Ireland, Adventurers for Land, 1642-1659” (London, 1903) is particularly useful for those descended from the English who settled in or acquired land in Ireland around the middle of the 17th century. Many people in England provided finance to the Parliamentary army in Ireland in 1642, 1643, and 1647 in return for a promise of land there. This volume identifies the names and addresses of those who supplied funds and the lands which they, or their successors, were subsequently granted. For example:

“14 January 1659, List of Persons who drew lots for land in County Tipperary, barony of Clanwilliam–Hezekiah Woodward, assigned to Samuel Blackwell, Samuel Blackwell, assignee of John Pye and the Butchers Company; Rawleigh Clapham, John Man, Richard Deacon, for Samuel Blackwell as the assignee of John Pye and the Butchers Company, and Joseph Ruthorne, for Clapham and Man, engage to stand to the particular lots as they fall out.”

“31 October 1654, Certificate by William Barnes, Mayor of the Borough of Clifton Dartmouth Hardnes, and by Lawrence Wheeler–John Rich of Dartmouth in Devon, cordwainer, to date deposed before them that the late Nathaniel Davy of Dartmouth, clerk, invested four pounds 13 shillings and nine pence in the Irish adventure in his lifetime. He left no will. Mary Davy, now living in Waterford or elsewhere in Ireland, is the sole daughter and heir of Nathaniel. Signed by the Mayor and Laurence Wheeler.”

Dr. David Dobson, to name just one, has used the Calendar of State Papers, Ireland (CSP Ireland) in research his “People of Ireland” series and other publications available from Researchers with Irish ancestry should check out those books, and make the CSP Ireland a source of their own in future explorations.

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