Records on poverty and health

Interactive maps on the Irish Poor Law

1851 Map Website Map 2 Map Website 1 Map Website

Maps showing the union-by-union figures of indoor and outdoor relief, including population figures and average daily numbers in the workhouses can be found at a website dedicated to an earlier project on ‘Welfare regimes under the Irish Poor Law, 1850-1914′ which was based at Oxford Brookes. They provide a wealth of information on each union useful to the researcher. You can click on the relevant union and get the percentage of relief given as outdoor relief, as well as population figures between 1851 and 1911, average daily number in the workhouse for a given year, and the average weekly cost per head. This is an invaluable resource for those interested in poor relief at a local level. To get to this information you have to click on the word ‘Provinces’ at the top of the screen. National maps showing the patchwork quilt of relief in each union are also available by clicking on the relevant years at the top of the page (1851, 1871, 1891 and 1911).

The images above show what you should be able to see (and the first three will take you to the website if you click on them). Alternatively you can go to the home page of the website by clicking here

Local Authorities and their Archives

Between the eighteenth and twentieth centuries, social services and public health were run by a variety of different groups including grand juries, boards of guardians, county councils and Boards of Public Health and Assistance, as well as private organizations.

The records that these local bodies produced often remain housed with today’s local authorities, the county councils. As such, for those seeking to find out about Grand Juries, Boards of Guardians, Rural District Councils, Urban District Councils, Dispensaries and other local services, the best place to start is the local studies section of the county library. Here are some links to those local authorities throughout the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

It ought to be noted that some collections have found their way to central repositories, for example, the records of the boards of guardians for the unions in Northern Ireland are held in the Public Records of Northern Ireland. Similarly, some records from southern counties and unions are to be found in the National Library of Ireland (e.g. Ballina) and National Archives of Ireland (North Dublin, Balrothery).

This list is an attempt to bring together links to all the poor law and board of health records held on the island of Ireland as they relate to health and welfare between 1838 and 1948. It is organised by county.

The list is not exhaustive, and if you have any further information that could be included here please feel free to get in touch with us to let us know. Equally, we are not responsible for the content of webpages to which we have placed links, but do let us know if you find no relevant result at the end of the link. (


The records for all the poor law unions that came under the Government of Northern Ireland once the act establishing the state was passed in 1920 can be found centrally in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. For more details on their holdings relating to individual unions check out the link

Also held in PRONI are significant holdings, both in government, local authority and private collections, relating to health, hospitals and medicine, for example;

Belfast Register for Fever hospital and infirmary (BG/7/HI)

Report of Chief Medical Officer, 1922, Larne Workhouse (BHA/32/1/87)

Cabinet Papers CAB/4/1253, CAB/9/C/65

Belfast hospital for sick children COOM/40/1/B/54


See note on Antrim


Bailieborough, Bawnboy, Cavan and Cootehill poor law union records; rural district council records; Board of Health and Public Assistance records (some restrictions apply);

According to the National Archives of Ireland website they hold some material relating to the Bawnboy poor law union;


Including Ballyshannon, Dunfanaghy, Glenties, Letterkenny, Inishowen, Milford, Stranorlar poor law union records

Rural and urban district council records for various districts in the county; Labourers’ Cottages records; Town Commissioners records; Petty Sessions records; Donegal Board of Health and Public Assistance


Carlow poor law union, rural and urban district councils


Poor law records survive for Corofin, Ennis, Ennistymon, Kilrush and Scarriff Union. Records for Ballyvaughan, Kildysart and Tulla Unions were destroyed by fire during the War of Independence.

Board of Health and Public Assistance – manager orders survive, check website for further information


There are records for all the poor law unions in Cork county as well as the city union, along with records for the Cork Board of Health and Public Assistance.

See this link for local government and health records only.


See note on Antrim


The records for North and South Dublin Unions, Rathdown and Balrothery are in the National Archives of Ireland, Bishop Street, Dublin 2.

Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland, Dublin

The registry of surgeons appointed by Act of Parliament to examine into the qualifications of candidates for County Hospitals or Infirmaries, 1766

Surgical Society of Ireland (1833-83): council minutes

St Marks Ophthalmic Hospital (founded 1841): governors minute book 1876-1879

Ledwich School of Surgery & Medicine, minute book, 1859-1871

Charitable Infirmary, Jervis Street: minute books, medical board reports 1835-1964


See note on Antrim


Galway County Library in Galway contains the records for a number of poor law unions including Ballinasloe, Clifden, Glenamaddy and Gort, as well as Loughrea and Mountbellew, Portumna and Tuam.

The county archives also contain manuscript material from the rural district councils, the Galway infirmary 1802-1892, and other relevant material.


Records include;

Kildare Board of Health from 1922

Kildare County Council and Rural Councils

Naas Poor Law Union from 1839-1922 (substantial)

Athy Poor Law Union from 1875 to 1920 (less comprehensive)

Celbridge Poor law Union (very little)

Leinster Express 1831-1884

Leinster Leader 1880 to present

Kildare Observer 1880-1935 – this is also online in partnership with The British Library – it is free and searchable


Records include;

Callan Board of Guardians and Callan Rural District Council

Castlecomer Board of Guardians and Castlecomer Rural District Council

Kilkenny Board of Guardians and Kilkenny Rural District Council

Thomastown Board of Guardians and Thomastown Rural District Council

Urlingford Board of Guardians and Urlingford Rural District Council

Carrick-on-Suir Rural District Council

New Ross IDA Rural District

Waterford Rural District


Records include;

Cahirciveen PLU, 1905-1922: minute books

Dingle PLU, 1840-1920: minute books

Glin (partly in Limerick) PLU; 1870-1891: minute books

Kenmare PLU, 1840-1921: minute books

Killarney PLU, 1840-1923: minute books

Listowel PLU 1845-1922: minute books

Killarney RCD, 1900-1925: minutes

Board of Health records, from 1920s (restricted use)

Kerry Burial Registers have been digitised and are available at


Board of Guardian material for a number of Laois or ‘Queen’s County’ poor law unions


The records of Leitrim poor law unions and rural district councils are included in this list for the archives of the county;


The records for Limerick are divided into those held by the City Council and those held by the County Council.

You can find the list of material held by the city council, which includes a wealth of material relating to public health and welfare, at

Digitised material for the Limerick Union can be found here,

They also hold ‘Register of Cases of Successful Vaccination, 1864-1912’ and material relating to public health services, pre-1960.

Some of the material has been digitised (including the records of the Bedford Lying-In Hospital and the local graveyard) so click here to find out if they have what you are looking for.

The records of the Limerick House of Industry are also held by the City Archives;

Information about the Limerick County records can be found at;

They hold records for the following poor law unions; Croom, Kilmallock, Newcastle West and Rathkeale.

And also for the County Council meetings from 1899 and the rural district council, as well as Grand Jury Presentments from 1807.

Londonderry / Derry

See note on Antrim


Longford and Ballymahon poor law records, Grand Jury records


Includes records of the Boards of Guardians, and the Boards of Health and Assistance


Records include;

Ballinrobe Poor Law Union records

Board of Health and  Public Assistance, County Mayo Financial records 1933-1953;

Board of Public Assistance annual estimate and demands, 1933-1945;

Board of Health abstract of accounts and Secretary half yearly statements, 1939;

Labourers’ cottages and contract ledger and scheme files, 1934 – 1953;

Widow and orphans ‘ pension, 1936 – 1947;

Deposits cash book, 1943 – 1945;

Minutes of Ballinrobe, County Mayo area committee meetings, 1926 – 1933.

Board of Health records are available on restricted basis on you must contact the librarian beforehand


Records include;

Grand Jury Abstracts of Presentments (1803-1898)

Board of Guardians Minute Books: Navan (on microfilm), Dunshaughlin, Trim, Oldcastle, Kells.

Rural District Councils (Minute books of Kells, Ardee, Dunshaughlin, Edenderry, Meath, Navan, Oldcastle and Trim)

Trim Town Commission and Urban District Council (1895-1960)

Kells Town Commission and Urban District Council (1843-1966)

Archives of Meath County Council (minutes, Accounts, Reports, Correspondence…) (from 1899)

Board of Health and Public Assistance (1922-1950)


Carrickmacross and Castleblayney poor law records;


Poor law records are held in the County Library in Tullamore, Co. Offaly,


The Roscommon County Library can be contacted at;


Material for Sligo poor law unions and the Board of Health and Public Assistance can be found by searching their online catalogue

According to the National Archives of Ireland website they hold some material relating to the Dromore West poor law union;


The minute books for Borrisokane, Cashel, Clonmel, Clogheen, Nenagh, Roscrea, Thurles and Tipperary unions are all available for consultation. Indoor Registers, death registers and other material is available for Thurles.

Rate Books for Nenagh and Thurles, 1840-49;

Tipperary North Riding Board of Health and Public Assistance (TL/LG/22)

Minutes for the meetings of this Board in two separate collections;

Public Health Minutes, July 1925 – June 1941 (40 volumes)

Public Assistance Minutes, January 1924 – January 1942 (42 volumes)

Also the following;

Thurles Office Outward Correspondence. 1939 – 1941

Public Assistance Advertisements, 1931 – 1936; 1938 – 1941; 1942 – 1944 (3 files); Ledgers 1932 – 1940 (3 volumes).

These are held in the Library in Thurles, Co. Tipperary.


See note on Antrim


Records of the Waterford boards of guardians include those from Dungarvan, Kilmacthomas, Lismore and Waterford.

See the link below for further detail of their holdings including; rough and fine minute books for Dungarvan and Kilmacthomas from 1845-1922; Minute books and three letters from individuals seeking outdoor relief in Lismore, 1840s-1920s (letters from 1882); minute books, volume of sealed orders from Poor Law Commissioners and other material for Waterford poor law union.

The County Archive does hold some further health records not listed but these are largely from the point of view of the maintenance and management provided by the Council e.g. there are some files on the building of Ardkeen Hospital, the maintenance of St. Patrick’s Hospital and of the County Home in Dungarvan. The Managers Orders from 1942 for Public Health also contain public health information.

Minutes of the County Board of Health and the County Board of Public Assistance are held by the HSE but they are not accessible to researchers.

According to the National Archives of Ireland website they hold some material relating to the Lismore poor law union;


Athlone and Mullingar poor law records, Grand Jury records, and urban and rural district council records for the County


Records of the Grand Jury, Board of Guardians and Board of Health and Public Assistance are listed

These include Gorey Poor Law Union Dispensary Minute Books, 1852-99 and the Board of Guardians minute books for the unions of New Ross, Enniscorthy, Wexford and Gorey.

Records of the Wexford County Council from 1899 to 1990 have been digitised and are available

Wexford Archives Home Page


Boards of Guardians records (Shillelagh, Rathdrum); Rural District Council (Shillelagh and Rathdrum*); Urban District Council (Bray, Wicklow); Wicklow County Council; Boards of Health and Assistance (minute books only; subject to restrictions)

*According to the Sources database, hosted by the National Library of Ireland, the Rathdrum minute books, 1839-1850, are held in the the NLI.


Dublin City Archives

Material relating to the Mansion House Relief Committee, 1880 contains information relating to many regions across the country as well as Dublin itself, and is worth exploring. Click here for more details.

Royal College of Physicians of Ireland

Holds a number of records relating to hospitals in Dublin including;

Royal National Hospital for Consumption

Saint Ultans Hospital

Sir Patrick Duns Hospital

Westmoreland Lock Hospital

See here  for more information

6 thoughts on “Records on poverty and health

    • If you follow the link to the Limerick county records in the post, and click on ‘Board of Guardian records’ there are details of Newcastle West sources there. Hope that helps.

    • Dear User,
      Sorry for delayed reply. I am not sure what sort of list you mean. A list of sources? I have no come across any sources for Ennis County Home but it is likely that they material would be held in the records of Clare County Archives if they survive or exist. You should contact them (details on the resources page of the blog) and they may be able to help you.
      Hope that helps,

    • Dear User,
      Sorry for delayed reply. I am not sure what sort of list you mean. A list of sources? I have not come across any sources for Ennis County Home but it is likely that they material would be held in the records of Clare County Archives if they survive or exist. You should contact them (details on the resources page of the blog) and they may be able to help you.
      Hope that helps,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.