One of the great challenges in Archives, particularly in Ireland where we have lost many archive collections, is to find archives or to try and piece together information from archives that have been lost to us. The brilliant Virtual Records Treasury project is reconstructing, through digital technologies and the support of other archives services, the records that were destroyed in the Public Records Office in 1922. However, lots of collections are lost as families move away or die out, as businesses go out of business or as institutions wind up and buildings get knocked down and this can sadly mean lots of records end up in a skip and lost to researchers.
But, not always, sometimes records do survive and can turn up in unexpected places. In some cases, a landed estate collection might end up in the collection of another family through a marriage connection. Businesses can be taken over and their records absorbed into the new company and local historians, communities, libraries or archives services can sometimes become aware of a collection heading for a skip and step in to rescue it.
In Waterford City and County Archives we have papers from the Chearnley family of Salterbridge County Waterford. These were found among the papers of the Earls of Rosse in Birr, County Offaly when they were being catalogued and they were deposited with the then Waterford County Library. This small collection also includes records from the Musgrave family of Salterbridge. Anthony Chearnley married Jennet (Janet) Musgrave in 1756 and the Chearnleys inherited some of the Musgrave land and records when Richard Musgrave of Salterbridge died leaving his property to his grandson Richard Chearnley and when he in turn died his estate went to his brother Anthony and Salterbridge became the home of the Chearnley family. It, therefore, makes perfect sense that the early Musgrave records were in the Chearnley papers but there is not such a clear cut explanation for why the records ended up in Offaly.
IE-WCA-PP-CHLY-1 Grant by Richard Musgrave to his son Richard of his house and lands in York 1671. Image courtesy of Waterford City and County Archives
Archives collections can often end up in unexpected places and the challenge for researchers is to track down where they might be. The Irish Archives Resource is a tool that can be used to help with that challenge. In addition to using the main search you can also browse and Explore All Archives
If you decide to Browse Landed Estate Collections you will find that the Marquess of Sligo collection is held by Maynooth University Library or the Richardsons Family of Dundalk County Louth and Nicholastown County Kildare have family papers that can be found at the National Archives of Ireland A search of business collections shows that there are records for J. & L.F. Goodbody Ltd. a jute manufacturing business with factories in Clara and Waterford and later Dublin, Limerick and Slane held by Offaly County Archives Service or that records of the Great Northern Railway Ireland were collected by Paddy Mallon a foreman at their works in Dundalk County Louth and this collection is now available in Louth County Archives Service There are so many records out there and we hope lots more still be be deposited with Archives Services in Ireland. The challenges for archivists is to keep up with all the collections deposited and get them catalogued and made accessible to researchers!
There is a challenge to finding archive collections but Archives Services across Ireland are working hard to meet the challenge of making more collections available to researchers. The Irish Archives Resource is also working hard to share these collections and help researchers find the collections they are seeking. This Explore Your Archives week why not challenge yourself to see what you can find among the many collections available to search on Irish Archives Resource
Joanne Rothwell, Waterford City and County Archivist and member of the Irish Archives Resource Team
With special thanks to all the Contributors to Irish Archives Resource who have make it possible for researchers to access archives collections and Explore Your Archives