Retrieval of Irish Archive Lost in 1922 Fire ‘Astounding’, Historian Says

Two days into the Civil War, a massive explosion destroyed the Public Records Office attached to Dublin’s Four Courts and with it hundreds of years of documented history, resulting in a huge loss for genealogists, historians, and many others who depend upon such records.

The census records for the whole of the 19th century going back to the first in 1821 were incinerated. Chancery records, detailing British rule in Ireland going back to the 14th century and grants of land by the crown, were also destroyed along with thousands of wills and title deeds. The records of various chief secretaries to Ireland and centuries of Church of Ireland parish registers vanished in the fire.

However, there is good news: An attempt to recreate Ireland’s archives destroyed in a fire in June 1922 has been successful to a “greater extent than ever previously imagined,” the historian behind the project has said.

You can read the full story in an article by Ronan McGreevy in The Irish Times web site at:


I hope the digitization project will start with the 1919 inventory of the archives, before the explosion and fire. At that period, many archivists around the world were in the habit of making very detailed inventories (this one is described as a 900 page manuscript), including informative titles and exact dates for individual “pieces” in the archives. A clear, publicly-accessible description of the lost archive may be the best way to encourage the discovery of complementary sources.


    The 1919 inventory of the contents of the Public Record Office of Ireland is not a manuscript but a published book by Herbert Wood, now hard to access. I have digitised it and it may be freely downloaded from my site at (3rd item, 30 MB). My prefatory essay gives a measured account of the public records destroyed in 1922, what survived and what was never in the PROI, together with details of records already digitised and searchable online. It is strange that the Beyond 2022 project does not acknowledge relevant prior work or indeed make it clear that some records can never be reconstructed in any substantial way, eg, pre-1901 census returns.
    Sean J Murphy


I just wish Church of Ireland parish records that DO still exist were available outside of Ireland. Some are, but far too many are not and my remaining brick walls are due to this.


    American genealogists have been waiting for years for particular Irish bishops to be replaced by someone more sympathetic to history! I’ve heard about that problem for at least 30 years.


The Irish Times article is sadly incorrect … another Irish genie myth being perpetuated … all 19th cc census returns were NOT lost in the fire … some of them were deliberately destroyed (1861 & 1871) … and some were pulped during WW1 (1881 & 1891) …
I will believe anything useful to non-academics comes out of this when I see it ☘️


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