Letterkenny Poor Law Union was established under the Poor Law (Ireland) Act 1838. Under this legislation, the country was divided into one hundred and thirty-seven poor law unions. The unions were controlled centrally by the poor law commissioners until 1872 when the Local Government Board was established. Each union was run by a board of guardians whose duty was to oversee the running of each workhouse.
The 1838 Act gave a number of powers to the Commissioners, and through them to the Boards, including to employ staff to collect rates and in the administration of the 'relief and management of the destitute poor' and to build workhouses 'for any Union not having a Workhouse', or to purchase or lease land for such a building and to maintain the workhouses.
The Guardians were granted the power to 'relieve and set to work….the destitute poor as by reason of old age, infirmity or defect may be unable to support themselves, and destitute children….[and others] who cannot 'support themselves by their own industry, or by other lawful means'. Part of the Act made it a responsibility of the Guardians to provide Register Books detailing those admitted into and relieved by the workhouses. The Act also compels each Union to maintain detailed accounts.
Relief granted to individuals under the act was deemed to be a loan and recoverable as such. No-one had a statutory right to relief under the Act, it was to be granted under the Boards' discretion, though under an amending act in 1847, when the Famine was creating a terrible toll on lives, the right to relief of certain groups, including the destitute, was recognised, and at this time, outdoor relief sanctioned.
In Donegal there were eight unions, Ballyshannon, Donegal, Dunfanaghy, Glenties, Inishowen, Letterkenny, Milford and Stranorlar.
Archival History ↴
Letterkenny Poor Law Union archives were held at the Courthouse in Lifford until the establishment of Donegal County Archives in 1999.
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: Letterkenny Board of Guardians ↴
The surviving archives of Letterkenny Poor Law Union are the official records of the poor relief system established under the 1838 Poor Law (Ireland) Act.
Letterkenny Poor Law Union archives include a range of archival material such as: the minutes of the meetings of the Board of Guardians from July 1841 to February 1923 (BG/109/1/1 – BG/109/1/82); the rough minutes (drafts) from October 1841 to October 1869, (BG/109/2/1 – BG/109/2/10); indoor relief registers and admission and discharge registers which give the date when admitted to or born in the workhouse, if previously relieved, name, address, gender, age, marital status, if child legitimate, illegitimate or deserted, employment e.g. tramp, religion, name of spouse and number of children if not in workhouse, details of condition and when discharged or died, 1855 – 1915 (BG/109/3/1 –BG/109/3/4); Record of Deaths in the workhouse and infirmary, 1910 – 1922, (BG/109/3/6); Letterkenny Union Dispensary Register, giving details of patients’ names, parish and townland; date relieved; ailment, 1843 – 1858, (BG/109/3/14); Letterkenny Estimate and Demand book from the Union to the County Council, with three tables for each year: (a) estimate of liabilities and expenditure of the Board in the financial year, (b), estimate of probable revenue of the Board, and (c), calculation of the sum required by the Guardians for the service of the ensuing financial year, 1899 – 1905 (BG/109/3/7); correspondence and notes (BG/109/3/10 – BG/109/3/32).
Appraisal Destruction ↴
No further accruals expected.
The collection is arranged in the following order: minute books, registers, financial records, correspondence.
Conditions of Access & Use
Conditions Governing Reproduction
Photocopying of bound volumes is not permitted. Digitisation of archives is permitted under certain circumstances.
Material Language Script
Characteristics Tech Req
The bound volumes need to be handled with care as some are fragile. Generally, access is to microfilms only.