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Each record contains a transcript and an image of the original entry. The information contained varies considerably but you could find out the following about your ancestor:

  • Name
  • Address
  • The date they were in court
  • Whether they were a witness, a complainant (or victim) or defendant (accused)

The image often gives a great deal of additional information including:

  • Details of the offence
  • Details of the verdict and the sentence

The Petty Sessions were usually covered by the press so you may find out even more about your ancestor’s story in our newspaper collection.

The Petty Sessions handled the bulk of lesser legal cases, both criminal and civil. They were presided over by Justices of the Peace, who were unpaid and often without any formal legal training. The position did not have a wage, so the role was usually taken by those with their own income – in practice usually prominent landowners or gentlemen. Justice was pronounced summarily at these courts, in other words, without a jury.

Cases of a more serious nature, which did require a jury, were held at the Quarter Sessions, which, as the name suggests were held four times a year. The most serious cases, those like murder or treason that carried the death penalty, were presided over by at least one legally trained judge at assizes held twice a year in circuit. The jury courts used a system known as a commission of Oyer and Terminer, a Norman French phrase meaning To See and To Judge. There were two juries, a Grand Jury who assessed the strength of the prosecution evidence, and the trial jury, who would hear the case if the Grand Jury had decided the case was strong enough to go forward to trial.

At the lower levels though, justice was summary and swift. The Petty Sessions, which sat daily, weekly or monthly, depending on the volume of cases, often saw controversial judgements. Every court had a clerk, whose job it was to record the details of each case in a register. It is those registers you are looking at in these records. The clerks also collected any fees from those involved in the cases.

The Petty Sessions were formally established with legislation in 1827, although they had been in operation for centuries before that. By 1851, amid growing concerns about the fairness of some of the justices of the peace, the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act sought to tighten up the rules. JPs were gradually replaced by trained and paid magistrates as the 19th century went on.

Covering both civil and criminal cases, the Petty Sessions’ brief was wide. Cases ranged from merchants who had not paid duty on their goods, to workers suing for unpaid wages. Farmers were fined for letting their cattle wander or for allowing their cart to be driven without their name painted on the side. Debts were collected and disputes settled. Public drunkenness was a common offence, as was assault and general rowdiness. Political feelings were often volatile and there are frequent cases all over the country of people charged with putting up seditious posters or leaflets.

There are very few registers which pre-date 1851 and none for Dublin city, Dun Laoghaire (Kingstown) and some other districts, either because they weren’t covered by the 1851 Act or because the records did not survive.

The Petty Sessions were replaced by the District Courts in Ireland in 1924. The system continues in Northern Ireland where they are usually referred to as Magistrate’s Courts.

What's on site now?

County of CourtCourtYearNotesNew
CARLOWBAGENALSTOWN1851-1913  
CARLOWCARLOW1910  
CARLOWFENAGH1851-74  
CARLOWHACKETSTOWN1902-03  
CARLOWMYSHALL1860-1911  
CAVANBAILIEBOROUGH1851-98  
CAVANBALLINAGH1852-1914 New
CAVANBALLYJAMESDUFF1858-61, 1865-72, 1877-84, 1887-1914 New
CAVANBAWNBOY1851-1911  
CAVANBELTURBET1851-1912  
CAVANCAVAN1851-1912  
CAVANCOOTEHILL1852-1912  
CAVANDOWRA1912  
CAVANKILLESHANDRA1862-1912  
CAVANKILNALECK1857-62, 1865-66, 1871-1904, 1911-14 New
CAVANKINGSCOURT1851-1912  
CAVANMOUNTNUGENT1876-79, 1895-1914 New
CAVANMULLAGH1861-1914 New
CAVANSWANLINBAR1866-1911  
CAVANVIRGINIA1830-31, 1834-57, 1863-1914 New
CLAREBALLYVAUGHAN1852-1911  
CLAREBROADFORD1898-1911  
CLARECOROFIN1856-1912  
CLARECRUSHEEN1864-1912  
CLAREENNIS1851-1913 New
CLAREENNISTYMON1851-1914 New
CLAREFEAKLE1884-1914  
CLAREKILDYSART1885-86, 1898-99  
CLAREKILKEE1872-1914 New
CLAREKILLALOE1910-11  
CLAREKILRUSH1851-1912  
CLAREKNOCK1851-1913  
CLARELISDOONVARNA1914  
CLAREMILTOWN MALBAY1851, 1853, 1855, 1862-1913  
CLARENEWMARKET-ON-FERGUS1851-1911  
CLAREQUIN1851-52, 1868-1911  
CLARESIXMILEBRIDGE1851-1911  
CLARETOMGRANEY1876-76  
CLARETULLA1885-1914  
CORKAGHERN1851-1913  
CORKAHADALLANE1864-65, 1870-71, 1874-1907  
CORKBALLINCOLLIG1899-1912  
CORKBALLYDEHOB1900-1914  
CORKBALLYMARTLE1863-1911  
CORKCASTLEMARTYR1853, 1872-1914 New
CORKCASTLETOWNBERE1858-1911  
CORKCASTLETOWNROCHE1851-1911  
CORKCOBH1851-58  
CORKDONERAILE1862-1912  
CORKDRIMOLEAGUE1900-1914  
CORKDUNMANWAY1851-97, 1903-11  
CORKFERMOY1852-58, 1891-1913  
CORKFIRMOUNT1907-11  
CORKKANTURK1851-1911  
CORKKILDORRERY1854-55, 1858-59, 1875-77, 1881-83, 1887-1908 New
CORKKINSALE1863-1912  
CORKLISCARROLL1906-09, 1913  
CORKMICHELSTOWN1853-56, 1860-73, 1878-80, 1884-1914  
CORKMILLSTREET1851-1913  
CORKQUEENSTOWN (COBH)1853-1912  
CORKRATHCORMACK1851-1913 New
CORKSCHULL1911-13  
CORKSKIBBEREEN1860-61, 1908-13  
CORKTIMOLEAGUE1892-1907  
CORKYOUGHAL1851-1914 New
DONEGALARDARA1851-1911  
DONEGALBALLINTRA1852-1911  
DONEGALBALLYSHANNON1851-1911  
DONEGALDONEGAL1868, 1886-87, 1889-1913  
DONEGALDUNFANAGHY1851-1913  
DONEGALDUNGLOE1897-1913  
DONEGALFALCARRAGH1871-1911  
DONEGALGLENTIES1852-1911  
DONEGALKILLYBEGS1851-1913  
DONEGALLETTERKENNY1858-59, 1871-72, 1878-79, 1895, 1900  
DONEGALLIFFORD1870-1913  
DONEGALMILFORD1857-61, 1865-1913 New
DONEGALMOVILLE1898-1913  
DONEGALNEWTOWN CUNNINGHAM1851-1913  
DONEGALRAMELTON1851-1913  
DONEGALRAPHOE1851-1913  
DONEGALRATHMULLEN1851-1913  
DONEGALSTRANORLAR1859-1913  
DUBLINBALBRIGGAN1851-87, 1894-1914 New
DUBLINBLANCHARDSTOWN1840-1912 New
DUBLINCABINTEELY1859-1913  
DUBLINCOOLOCK1868-96  
DUBLINDRUMCONDRA1852-62, 1866-1902, 1911-13  
DUBLINDUNDRUM1852-1913  
DUBLINLUCAN1851-1912  
DUBLINNEWCASTLE1865-72  
DUBLINRAHENY1861-69, 1904-06  
DUBLINRATHCOOLE1851-65, 1869, 1873-1908  
DUBLINSWORDS1872-1913  
DUBLINTALLAGHT1906-12  
GALWAYAHASCRAGH1851-1912  
GALWAYARDRAHAN1851-1914 New
GALWAYARRAN1859-61, 1870-1914 New
GALWAYATHENRY1851-1914 New
GALWAYBALLINASLOE1851-1912  
GALWAYBALLYGAR1864-1872, 1875, 1881-85, 1889-1895, 1898-1910  
GALWAYBALLYMOE1862-1911  
GALWAYCARNA1897-1912  
GALWAYCASTLETOWN1860-63, 1866-1913 New
GALWAYCLEGGAN1892, 1902-1912, 1914 New
GALWAYCLIFDEN1857-1914 New
GALWAYCLONBUR1912-13  
GALWAYDERREEN1857-78, 1884-1899, 1905-07, 1912-14  
GALWAYDERRYNEA1864-66, 1891-92, 1900-12 New
GALWAYEYRECOURT1851-59, 1882  
GALWAYGALWAY1836, 1839, 1851-1914 New
GALWAYGARRAFIN1902-14 New
GALWAYGORT1851-1913  
GALWAYGURTEEN1838-1913 New
GALWAYHEADFORD1851-1913  
GALWAYKILLIMORE1857-1889, 1894-1913  
GALWAYLAWRENCETOWN1854-1911  
GALWAYLETTERFRACK1864-72, 1887-1913  
GALWAYLOUGHREA1904-13  
GALWAYMOUNTBELLEW1860, 1870-71, 1874-1913  
GALWAYMOYCULLEN1876-87, 1891-95, 1908-14 New
GALWAYORANMORE1861-1914 New
GALWAYOUGHTERARD1851-1914 New
GALWAYPORTUMNA1851-66, 1877-1913  
GALWAYRECESS1913-14  
GALWAYROUNDSTONE1862, 1888-1914  
GALWAYSPIDDAL1855-1914  
GALWAYTUAM1858, 1865-1914  
GALWAYWILLIAMSTOWN1851-1911  
GALWAYWOODFORD1851-1913  
KERRYANNASCAUL1895-1913  
KERRYBALLYLONGFORD1855-1913  
KERRYCAHERCIVEEN1851-1912  
KERRYCAHERDANIEL1851-1912  
KERRYCASTLEGREGORY1896-1913  
KERRYCOOLMAGORT1851-66, 1872-1909  
KERRYDINGLE1901-13  
KERRYKILLARNEY1851-1911  
KERRYKILLORGLIN1869-1912  
KERRYMILLTOWN1851-1911  
KERRYTARBERT1860, 1873-1913  
KERRYTRALEE1853-71, 1875, 1883-1913  
KERRYVALENTIA1906-11  
KILDARECLANE1892-93, 1898-1903, 1907-1913  
KILDARECURRAGH1860-1913  
KILDAREKILDARE1853, 1860-1913  
KILDAREKILMEAGUE1864-67, 1874-91  
KILDAREMONASTEREVAN1902-1911  
KILDARENAAS1866-67, 1874-77, 1881-1914 New
KILDARENEWBRIDGE1860-1913  
KILDARENEWBRIDGE TOWN COMMISSIONERS COURT1869-70, 1886-1914 New
KILDARERATHANGAN1851-1913  
KILDARERATHANGAN AND CLONBULLOGUE1852-1913Clonbullogue is in Offaly 
KILDAREROBERTSTOWN1875, 1891-1913  
KILKENNYBALLYRAGGET1851-1912  
KILKENNYCASTLECOMER1851-1912  
KILKENNYFRESHFORD1859-1913  
KILKENNYGORESBRIDGE1854-1909  
KILKENNYGOWRAN1865-67, 1893-1911  
KILKENNYGRACES OLDCASTLE1851-1911  
KILKENNYJOHNSTOWN1853, 1856-1914 New
KILKENNYKILKENNY1854-1914 New
KILKENNYKILMANAGH1851-58, 1861-1907  
KILKENNYKILMOGANNY1851-1911  
KILKENNYLIMETREE1851-55  
KILKENNYROSBERCON1870-99  
KILKENNYSTONEYFORD1851-54, 1857-67, 1883-85, 1892-1913 New
KILKENNYTHOMASTOWN1851-60, 1876-77, 1886-1914 New
LAOISBALLYBRITTAS1851-61, 1870-1913  
LAOISBALLYLINAN1851-1911  
LAOISCASTLETOWN AND COOLRAIN1851-86, 1897-98  
LAOISMARYBOROUGH1853-1914 New
LAOISMOUNTRATH1851-1913  
LAOISPORTARLINGTON1851-1913  
LAOISRATHDOWNEY1893-1910  
LAOISSTRADBALLY1896-1913  
LAOISTIMAHOE1851-86 New
LEITRIMCARRICK-ON-SHANNON1838-44, 1851-1913 New
LEITRIMKINLOUGH1851-1911  
LIMERICKABBEYFEALE1901-03  
LIMERICKADARE1851-88, 1904-13  
LIMERICKASKEATON1853, 1857, 1873-86, 1891-1913  
LIMERICKBALLINGARRY1862-63, 1876, 1879-88, 1891, 1897-1913  
LIMERICKBALLYNEETY1907-08  
LIMERICKBRUFF1858-1912  
LIMERICKBRUREE1880-92  
LIMERICKCROOM1855-60, 1863-1913  
LIMERICKGALBALLY1887-1911  
LIMERICKKILFINANE1908-11  
LIMERICKKILMALLOCK1882-1912  
LIMERICKLIMERICK CITY1851-1913  
LIMERICKLIMERICK CITY (POLICE COURT)1851-53, 1859-1912  
LIMERICKLIMERICK CITY CHILDREN1909-11  
LIMERICKLIMERICK LIBERTIES1853-1913  
LIMERICKNEWCASTLE1899-1900  
LIMERICKPALLASKENRY1851-1913  
LIMERICKRATHKEALE1887-88, 1894-1913  
LONGFORDARDAGH1878-83, 1894-1913  
LONGFORDBALLINAMUCK1904-08  
LONGFORDBALLYMAHON1857-71, 1877-78, 1890-92, 1901-13  
LONGFORDCARRICKBOY1858-71, 1900-08  
LONGFORDEDGEWORTHSTOWN1862-1913  
LONGFORDKENAGH1855-72, 1876-1901, 1910-13  
LONGFORDLONGFORD1851-1913  
LOUTHARDEE1851-1911  
LOUTHCASTLEBELLINGHAM1854-1912  
LOUTHCOLLON1851-1912  
LOUTHDROGHEDA1851-1912  
LOUTHDULEEK1904-08  
LOUTHDUNDALK1853-1912  
LOUTHDUNLEER1851-59, 1866-1912  
LOUTHLOUTH1902-12  
LOUTHMELL1860-1912  
LOUTHRAVENSDALE1899-1913  
MAYOBALLINA1852-1911  
MAYOBALLINDINE1882-1912  
MAYOBALLINROBE1854-1911  
MAYOBALLYCASTLE1866-1912  
MAYOBALLYGLASS1858-1911  
MAYOBALLYHAUNIS1855-1911  
MAYOBALLYVARY1851-59  
MAYOCASTLEBAR1851-1912  
MAYOCLAREMORRIS1880-1912  
MAYOCONG1851-1911  
MAYOFOXFORD1851-52, 1858-1912  
MAYOHOLLYMOUNT1851-1912  
MAYOKILLALA1861-1911  
MAYOKILMAINE1860-62, 1874-86, 1893-1911  
MAYOKILTIMAGH1900-13  
MAYOLOUISBURGH1852-1913  
MAYOLOWPARK1859-1911  
MAYONEWPORT1854-55, 1859-70, 1873-96, 1900-07, 1910-14 New
MAYOSWINFORD1853-1913  
MAYOWESTPORT1851-1914 New
MEATHATHBOY1851-1913  
MEATHCROSSAKIEL1860-1912  
MEATHDRUMCONRATH1851-1911  
MEATHDUNBOYNE1882, 1906-1910  
MEATHDUNSHAUGHLIN1851-97, 1906-13  
MEATHGEORGES CROSS, NAVAN1851-1913  
MEATHJULIANSTOWN1854-1911  
MEATHKELLS1851-1914 New
MEATHMOYNALTY1896-1914 New
MEATHNAVAN1851-1913  
MEATHOLDCASTLE1851-1913  
MEATHSLANE1851-1913  
MEATHTRIM1852-1913  
MONAGHANBALLYBAY1851-1912  
MONAGHANCARRICKMACROSS1851-1912  
MONAGHANCASTLEBLAYNEY1851-1912  
MONAGHANCLONES1855-1913  
MONAGHANMONAGHAN1851-1913  
MONAGHANNEWBLISS1851-1912  
OFFALYCLONBULLOGUE see Rathangan Kildare 
OFFALYEDENDEERY1851-1913 New
OFFALYFAHY1854-1911  
OFFALYFRANKFORD1910-11  
OFFALYMONEYGALL1901-11  
OFFALYPARSONSTOWN1884-1911  
OFFALYPHILIPSTOWN1851-1913  
OFFALYPORTARLINGTON1905-09  
OFFALYTHOMASTOWN1873-76, 1903-11  
ROSCOMMONATHLONE1851-1900see Westmeath 
ROSCOMMONBALLINLOUGH1851-1912  
ROSCOMMONBALLINTOBBER1851-52, 1864-1912  
ROSCOMMONBALLYDANGAN1851-53  
ROSCOMMONBALLYFORAN1856-1913  
ROSCOMMONBOYLE1852-1913  
ROSCOMMONBRIDESWELL1851-59, 1903-13  
ROSCOMMONCASTLEREA1851-55, 1861-1912  
ROSCOMMONCOOLDERRY1851, 1858-1913  
ROSCOMMONCOOTEHALL1851-62, 1871-1912  
ROSCOMMONCROGHAN1851, 1858-1913  
ROSCOMMONHILLSTREET1912  
ROSCOMMONLECARROW1900-13  
ROSCOMMONROOSKY1862-69, 1876-1913  
ROSCOMMONROSCOMMON1872-1914 New
ROSCOMMONSTROKESTOWN1877-79, 1882, 1884-86, 1892-1913  
SLIGOBALLINAFAD1851-1913  
SLIGOBALLYDOOGAN1857-61, 1869  
SLIGOBALLYMOTE1854-1914 New
SLIGOCOLLOONEY1906-12  
SLIGODROMORE WEST1860, 1870-72, 1876-1912  
SLIGOEASKEY1881, 1885-1904, 1908-13  
SLIGOENNISCRONE1911  
SLIGOMULLAGHROE1851-1913  
SLIGOSCREEN1851-54, 1868-91, 1895-1912  
SLIGOSLIGO BOROUGH1864-69, 1879, 1888, 1891-1901, 1905-06, 1910-13  
SLIGOSLIGO COUNTY1863-64, 1868-1913  
TIPPERARYARDFINNAN1912  
TIPPERARYBANSHA1851-57, 1861-68, 1872-81, 1884-1913  
TIPPERARYCAHIR1851-1912  
TIPPERARYCAPPAWHITE1875-1913  
TIPPERARYCARRICK-ON-SUIR1897-1901  
TIPPERARYCLONMEL BORO1851-1911see Waterford 
TIPPERARYDUNDRUM1896-1905  
TIPPERARYFETHARD1851-1913  
TIPPERARYGOLDEN1860-61, 1871  
TIPPERARYNENAGH1837-41, 1846-1913 New
TIPPERARYNew INN1858-75  
TIPPERARYROSCREA1873-1913  
TIPPERARYTEMPLEMORE1851-1913 New
TIPPERARYTHURLES1909-13  
TIPPERARYTIPPERARY1851-1913  
WATERFORDARDMORE1851-1913  
WATERFORDBALLYMACARBRY1861-75, 1880-1911  
WATERFORDCALLAGHANE1851-1913  
WATERFORDCAPPOQUIN1863-64, 1874-1913  
WATERFORDCLASHMORE1851-55, 1859-1913  
WATERFORDCLONMEL RURAL1851-1911see Tipperary 
WATERFORDDUNGARVAN1908-13  
WATERFORDLISMORE1895-1912  
WATERFORDPORTLAW1851-1904, 1908-11  
WATERFORDSTRADBALLY1887-91, 1895-98, 1901-05, 1909-13  
WATERFORDTALLOW1872-74, 1881, 1884-91, 1899-1913  
WATERFORDTRAMORE1851-1913  
WATERFORDVILLIERSTOWN1894-1913  
WATERFORDWATERFORD CITY1851-1914 New
WATERFORDWATERFORD CITY (POLICE COURT)1851-97, 1902-13  
WATERFORDWATERFORD CITY (ST PATRICK'S HALL)1851-1913  
WESTMEATHATHLONE1900-11see Roscommon 
WESTMEATHATHLONE1900-22see Roscommon 
WESTMEATHBALLYMORE1870-1913  
WESTMEATHBRAWNEY, ATHLONE1851-1900see Roscommon 
WESTMEATHDELVIN1852-60, 1871-1913  
WESTMEATHGLASSON1843-58, 1867-1913 New
WESTMEATHKILLUCAN1851-1913  
WESTMEATHMOATE1828-61, 1866, 1869-1913 New
WESTMEATHMULLINGAR1851-1913  
WESTMEATHMULTYFARNHAM1851-1905  
WESTMEATHROCHFORTBRIDGE1862-72, 1875-79, 1883-84, 1887-1913  
WESTMEATHTYRELLSPASS1875-1913  
WEXFORDARTHURSTOWN1853-59  
WEXFORDCLONROCHE1873-76, 1905-13  
WEXFORDDUNCORMICK1896-1914 New
WEXFORDENNISCORTHY1851-1913  
WEXFORDFERNS1853-1911  
WEXFORDGOREY1900-1911  
WEXFORDNEW ROSS1851, 1853-1913 New
WEXFORDNEWTOWNBARRY1852-1912  
WEXFORDOULART1851-1911  
WEXFORDTAGHMON1851-52, 1893-1913  
WICKLOWARKLOW1851-1911  
WICKLOWAVOCA1869-79, 1883-92, 1896-1911  
WICKLOWBRAY1850-70, 1873-1911  
WICKLOWCARNEW1869-92  
WICKLOWCOOLKENNO1869-92  
WICKLOWENNISKERRY1859-1914 New
WICKLOWNEWTOWNMOUNTKENNEDY1851-1911  
WICKLOWRATHDRUM1851-1913 New
WICKLOWREDCROSS1866-69  
WICKLOWSHILLELAGH1892-1913  
WICKLOWTINAHELY1869-1913  
WICKLOWWICKLOW1891-93 

Who was involved in digitising this collection?

The images were provided by Family Search from records held at the National Archives of Ireland. Indexing was carried out by IIM Inc.

Copyright of IIMI Inc and brightsolid online publishing (Ireland) Ltd. All rights reserved. Images and Index Data owned by IIMI Inc and brightsolid online publishing Ireland Ltd Images provided by and copyright (c) familysearch.org Images derived from National Archives of Ireland Petty Sessions records.

The remaining records at the National Archives of Ireland will be published later this year.