Search for your Irish ancestry through more than 400,000 records from the Donegal workhouses. The records include admission and discharge registers as well as board of guardians’ minute books. The books span from 1840 to 1922 and comprise records from 8 poor law unions across Donegal. These valuable records have been digitised by Findmypast and in partnership with the Donegal County Council.
With every result, you will find an image of the original records and a transcript. The transcripts are typed versions of the vital details you find in the original documents. The detail in the transcripts may vary, but most will include:
Event date – these could be minute books, admission books, or discharge books
County and country
Document type – whether they are registers or minute books
Format – whether they are typed or handwritten
Archive and archive reference
The Donegal Workhouse Registers and Minute Books span from 1840 to 1922 and comprise records from 8 poor law unions across Donegal. The unions are Ballyshannon, Donegal, Dunfanaghy, Glentis, Inishowen, Letterkenny, Milford, and Stranorlar. The original records are held by the Donegal County Council and have been digitised through a partnership with Findmypast. Within the collection, you will find a wide variety of records. The collection mainly consists of admission and discharge registers plus board of guardians minute books, but you will also find Accounts, death registers, letter, relief registers, supplier contracts, and more. A full list of the types of documents can be found below.
Until the late 1830s, all support for the poor and incapacitated in Ireland had been funded by charity. Unlike the UK, where the care and management of paupers had been covered by law since 1601, Ireland was not covered by a national Poor Law until 1838. Ireland was divided into Poor Law Unions which were presided over by Boards of Guardians. The Guardians oversaw the setting up and running of workhouses, the gathering of local taxes to pay for the poor laws and the appointment of staff and contractors. The Donegal poor law unions were formed between 1840-1841.
High levels of poverty in 19th century Ireland meant that hundreds of thousands of Irish people passed through the workhouses. Irish workhouses were generally built to accommodate around 800 inmates although it soon became clear that more space was needed. A programme of building took place throughout the 1840s and 50s. Life inside was grim. At first, there was no so-called outdoor relief, as would have been common in England. Outdoor relief was when the poor could simply use the workhouse facilities as needed by undertaking a day’s work. Indoor relief was initially the only option and required the poor to prove they were destitute before they were admitted.
Once inside the inmates were separated into distinct groups, men and women, adults and children, able-bodied and infirm. They were expected to wear a uniform inside and were kept separated from other groups. They were expected to work for a roof over their heads and the work was hard and monotonous. Common tasks included treadmills or breaking apart old ropes into fibre. Women might be employed in sewing tasks but certainly in Dublin, also used the treadmills. Food was also monotonous and basic. Stirabout, a watery gruel was common, as was bread. Once a year the routine was relaxed and inmates had meat to celebrate Christmas.
While many lived and died in the workhouse it was not unusual for people to leave. The workhouse authorities would provide a suit of clothes if an inmate could prove they had a chance of work.
Admissions & Discharges
Day Book & Outdoor Relief Register
Deaths & Indoor Relief Register
Estimates & Demands
Guardian Treasurer's Book
History Of Water Supply
Indoor Relief Register
Indoor Relief Register & Accounts
Indoor Relief Register, Admissions & Discharges
Outdoor Relief Register, Admissions & Discharges, Deaths, Marriages & Punishment Book
Outdoor Relief Register, Admissions & Discharges, Deaths, Punishment Book & Register Of Mortgages
Rough Minute Book
Special Diet Book
Tenders For Workhouse Supplies
Treasurer's Book, Record Of Sickness & Mortality & Indoor Relief Register
Treasurer's Pass Book
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