Find your ancestors in Easter Rising & Ireland under martial law 1916-1921

Discover your ancestor among the thousands of names of those who participated in or were affected by the Easter Rising of April 1916. The collection also documents the names of both civilians and soldiers who were court-martialled in the years following the Rising. You will also find from the British Army and Royal Irish Constabulary search and raid reports, which were created during the War of the Independence as guerrilla warfare exploded across Ireland.

The records come from The National Archives, UK, WO35 series, War Office: Army of Ireland: Administration and Easter Rising Records. The pieces include court martial registers, reports of the events of Easter Rising week, search and raid reports, files of civilians tried by court martial, and internment camp and prison registers.

Below we have listed the various types of records, their archive references and what you may find in each type of records.

  • Events of Easter Rising week (WO35/69)
  • This piece includes military intelligence reports on the actions of the rebels as well as reports of unarmed persons killed or wounded by the rebels throughout the week of the Easter Rising. The records include details of how individuals were wounded. It also includes daily situation reports created by the British Army.

    In this piece, you will find telegrams reporting the swift trials and executions of prominent leaders of the Rising. The administration reports include discussions about what to do with the possessions of prisoners. For example, one report explains that Padraig Pearse’s mother had requested that her son’s watch and money be returned.

  • Raid and search reports (WO35/70-86)
  • These are reports of raids and searches that took place at various locations, such as private homes, pubs, hotels and factories across Ireland. Search orders recorded the address to be searched and what or who was expected to be there. The completed reports by military parties detail what the search revealed, including the names of anyone found on the site (and if they were questioned or arrested) and what items of interested were uncovered, such as arms, ammunition or seditious material. For example, the records show over 70 search and raid reports looking for Michael Collins, the Irish Republican Army’s director of intelligence.

  • Court-martial registers (Military), Dublin, 1920-1922 (WO35/57-58, WO35/68)
  • This source contains registers of the military court-martial trials. The registers recorded the individual’s rank, regiment, charge and verdict. Privates were brought before the court on charges such as theft, desertion and even physically assaulting a superior officer.

  • Civilians tried by court-martial, 1920-1922 (WO35/94-131, WO35/208)
  • While Ireland was under martial law, civilians could be court-martialled under the Defense of the Realm Act. Reports pertaining to such occurrences contain statements about the offence and details of the court proceedings. In many files, you will also find witness testimonies and statements about the character of the individual on trial.

  • Court-martial case registers, June 1916-1921 (WO35/132-137, WO35/139)
  • The registers contain the following information:

    • Names of those who were tried by court-martial
    • Charges against the individual(s)
    • Dates of offence, arrest, and court-martial
    • Verdict, sentence and scheduled release date
    • The particulars of the case
    • Additional annotations, such as if the person went on hunger strike and/or died. Additional notes also showed if the person escaped, such as Linda Kearns who escaped from Mountjoy Prison.

    At the end of the registers are alphabetical lists of the prisoners and the page numbers where their trial details can be found. Countess Markievez, founding member of Inghinighe na hEireann (daughters of Ireland) and lieutenant of the Irish Citizen Army during the Easter Rising, and Thomas Ashe, founding member of the Irish Volunteers, can be found in these records.

  • Internment camps and prisons, 1920-1922 (WO35/138, WO35/140-144)
  • These pieces contain the lists of those held in various internment camps and prisons. There are pages of reports for many of the detainees recording their charges, trial, and sentence. Further reports exist for those who were found to be innocent, released, or on a hunger strike in prison.

  • Courts of inquiry (WO35/145-160, WO35/161-163)
  • This source includes investigations into the deaths of prisoners, rebels, civilians, soldiers, or police between 1919 and 1922. The context of each death was documented with witness statements and coroners’ inquests.

  • Sinn Fein activists, A-E (WO35/206) and F-W (WO35/207)
  • These are intelligence folders from Dublin Castle about known Sinn Fein activists. The folders may include newspaper clippings about the individual, reports of movements, or arrests, as well as additional material seized in raids related to the individual. There are files on Ernest Blythe, Harry Boland, W T Cosgrove, Sean McGarry, Mary MacSwinney, Eamonn Price, and more.

  • Military operation and inquiries (WO35/88-89)
  • In these pieces, you will find military investigations and inquiries into ambushes, raids, reprisals, and other incidents. For example, within WO 35/88b is an investigation into the deaths of civilians at Croke Park on 21 November 1920. The civilians were killed by the auxiliary branch of the Royal Irish Constabulary, known as the ‘Black and Tans’. The reports include the date and time of the incident, the names of those involved or present, and witnesses’ statements. Piece 89 is a card index of reports organised by surname in alphabetical order.

  • War diaries (WO35/90-93)
  • War diaries are created by military units. They are not personal diaries or reflections on events of the day. The war diaries documented movements of patrols and units, any arrests made, and a summary of any additional events of the day related to military activities. Most war diaries do not include many names unless it is an exceptional mention. They are useful for tracking companies and battalion movements.

  • Claims for damages (WO35/164-170)
  • These are claims for compensation for damage to properties or businesses by the British Army. Each claim will include the location of the damage, the date it occurred, and correspondence between the administration and the claimant about the investigation of the damage claim.

  • Communications (WO35/180)
  • The communications pertain to military orders and movements, witness statements, and military nominal rolls.

  • Rebel outrages: appreciations and medal awards (WO35/181)
  • In this piece, you will find lists of names of people who were awarded medals and awards for their actions in Ireland. The lists include name, rank, regiment, and where the person was stationed.

  • Court-martial of Countess Markievicz (WO35/210-211)
  • These are exhibits of material used in the court-martial of Countess Markievicz. Included in this folder is a constitution of Fianna Eireann, a copy of a training circular of Fianna Eireann for boy scouts, and a letter from prison to Lily [Kempson].