Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland launches
The digital reconstruction of Ireland’s destroyed record office is now free to view online
The Public Record Office of Ireland (PROI) has been recreated using archival research and ground-breaking digital technology 100 years after its destruction.
Ireland notoriously has much poorer family history records coverage than the UK because the PROI, along with its collection of 800 years of Irish records, was destroyed in a fire on 30 June 1922, near the start of the Irish Civil War.
In February 2018 Beyond 2022, a project to reconstruct the PROI virtually in time for the 100th anniversary of the fire, was announced.
The Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland (VRTI) was launched on 27 June 2022 at an event in St Patrick’s Hall in Dublin Castle, with speakers including Micheál Martin, the Taoiseach of Ireland.
The Taoiseach said: “It is an invaluable historical resource for people of all traditions across the island and for everyone of Irish heritage around the world. It is an immense achievement and testament to the commitment and dedication of the Beyond 2022 project team and the archival partners. The Virtual Treasury belongs to the people of Ireland, democratising access to our rich archival heritage and making our rich history accessible and engaging for everyone.”
The key partner institutions in Beyond 2022 were the National Archives of Ireland, The National Archives in the UK, the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, the Irish Manuscripts Commission, and the Library of Trinity College Dublin. The digital reconstruction was created by the SFI ADAPT Centre.
The Beyond 2022 researchers located equivalents of the missing documents in over 70 archives around the world.
The total collection of 150,000 records containing 50 million words of text and more than 6,000 maps is now digitised and free to search by names of people and places, keywords and reference numbers.
The documents date from 1174 to 1922. Up to 80% of the documents are located in three ‘Golden Seams’ - the 1766 religious census of Ireland, which holds over 50,000 individual names; the Cromwellian Surveys, which mapped and surveyed Ireland in the 17th century as land was taken from the Catholic landowning elite by the British government; and the Medieval Exchequer financial records of Ireland, starting with the reign of Henry II of England and dating from 1250 to 1450.
The website also boasts a 3D virtual reconstruction of the original PROI building which users can tour.
The creation of the VRTI is part of the Decade of Centenaries, a programme in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland to commemorate the 100th anniversary of key events in the island’s history, from the signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912 to the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922.
Rosemary Collins is the features editor of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine