Board of Guardians Records...

The new English system of Poor Law administration was applied to Ireland in 1838.

Destitute poor who were previously granted relief at parish level were to be accommodated in new workhouses, where conditions were to be as unpleasant as was consistent with health.

Ireland was divided into 137 Poor Law Unions. These ignored traditional divisions, such as the county, barony and parish, and were centred on a market town where a workhouse was built.

The management of the workhouses was the responsibility of the Boards of Guardians composed of elected representatives of the ratepayers in each union, together with ex officio members including Justices of the Peace. In the minute books kept by the Guardians are details of the day-to-day running of the workhouse, including information on many of the inmates and those employed in the workhouse as teachers, nurses, chaplains, etc.

Indoor registers provides the names of those who were admitted to the workhouses. The information recorded also includes the townland, age, spouse’s name and religion of each inmate. Vaccination registers are another useful source among the Board of Guardians records. Surviving Board of Guardians records for Northern Ireland are deposited at PRONI under reference BG.

Access to some of these records can be a problem, as there is a 100-year closure rule on all documents in the Boards of Guardians papers. This means that, for example, an admissions register covering the period 1870–1910 will not be available to the public until 2011.

Records of Board of Guardians for Newry Poor Law Union (BG/24)

Minute book, 1839-1947 – /A

Dispensary minute book, 1852-1892 – /AJ

Copy out-letter books, 1844-1901 – /B

Chaplains books, 1869-91, 1922-45 – /FO

Offence and punishment book, 1850-1910 – /GJ

Medical officer report books 1872-1948 – /HD

Index to register of births, 1892-99 & 1906-1951 – /K

Index to register of vaccinations - /L

Rate book, 1849 (D/266/373)