Was your ancestor on the Grand Jury for County Clare, deciding what crimes went to trial and overseeing the roads and civic structures of the county? Perhaps they were contracted by the Grand Jury to fix the roads or were hired to teach in one of the prisons or workhouses. Search these fascinating records to find out how the county was run in the 19th century as well as finding lists of all those who served on the Grand Jury for Clare as far back as 1689.
Each record is a PDF of the original material. The amount of information varies as several different types of document are included in these records.
Members of the Grand Jury dating back to 1668 are listed by name and (usually) rank. It appears that the information was gathered into a single volume sometime in the 19th century so it is not possible to rule out errors. Judges and sheriffs for the spring and summer meetings from 1732 and 1882 are also included.
Grand Jury Presentments
There are 42 volumes of grand jury presentments dating from 1784 to 1792 and 1870 to 1900. Presentments were generally orders for money to be paid for various work around the county. This could be anything from maintaining the roads to hiring a teacher or a doctor for the workhouse or a clerk for the courthouse. Entries usually include the details of the job and the name of the person hired to do it as well as the amount that was due to be paid.
Also included are letters and circulars to the grand jury. These concern ongoing or upcoming projects or take the form of petitions for work that needs doing or problems with a particular project. As with the presentments, you will find details of the job and the name of the sender.
Grand juries were the forerunner of county councils. They had been in operation in Ireland since the Middle Ages, when they operated in those parts of the country under the control of the English Government, known as the Pale.
They functioned as local government authorities at county level and were so-called because they had to present their proposals and budgets in court for official sanction by a judge at twice yearly assizes. Grand juries had an additional function in the assizes where they would test the evidence in any serious criminal case due to come before the courts for trial before the case was handed over to the trial jury. As landowners the grand jurors would also qualify to sit on criminal juries and many were also local magistrates. These records do not record the legal work of the grand jury however.
There were a maximum of 23 jurors on the grand jury and the position was honorary. They were generally the largest payers of local rates, and so were usually the larger landlords, usually landed gentry, farmers or merchants. Grand juries administered local taxes, known as cess, and could impose fines as well as overseeing the county’s administrative framework including courts and poor law structures. From 1691 to 1793 membership was limited to members of the Church of Ireland. The Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act of 1840 simplified the borough system and began to make the system more representative. County councils were introduced in 1898 and the system of grand juries began to die out. They did not continue after 1922.
These records are presented in PDF format which means that some of our usual search functions are not present. To help you we have provided some useful search tips.
Searching by name You can search through the records for a particular name but do be careful to use the spelling as it would appear in the document. If you don’t succeed at first try other variations of the spelling. Remember that abbreviations were sometimes used – Chas. for Charles, for example or Thos. for Thomas.
Searching by keyword You can also search by keyword for a subject contained in the documents. You can search for a single word or phrase contained in the text. If you want to search for a particular group of words try putting your search into quotation marks to search for the exact phrase.
Wildcards You can perform a wild card search using an asterisk (*). Cha* will find Charles or Chas but also Channel.