Board of Guardian Records

Papers of the Board of Guardian, 1839-1951, bodies elected by ratepayers to levy a poor rate and manage the administration of relief to the poor after the enactment of the 1838 Poor Law in the 27 Poor Law Unions in Northern Ireland. The collection deals not only with the administration of the workhouses and the relief of the poor but also with emigration and many aspects of local government, particularly in the period between the establishment of Boards of Guardians in 1838 and the transfer of certain of their powers to local authorities by the Local Government Act of 1898 which created county councils elected by ratepayers. There are complete sets of minute books, 1839-1948, for almost all the Unions. Several Unions have important admission and discharge registers from 1839; these provide details such as names, age, religious denomination, occupation, marital status and why relief needed to be given. The archive also contains outdoor relief admission and discharge books, lists, registers, abstracts and classified returns. These comprise an important record of the poor given that, at the height of the Famine in February 1848, an estimated 1,433,042 persons, from all categories of pauper, were in receipt of outdoor relief throughout Ireland. Another constituent of the archive for many of the Unions include returns of births and deaths, correspondence, various Committee minute books (e.g. Sanitary Committee, Dispensary Committee, Boarding-out Committee), contracts and tenders, financial records, report books of visiting Committees and the masters' journals and return books.


A particular strength of this huge collection is that it deals with a section of the population (i.e. the poor) who, by and large, hardly recorded or had anything recorded about them individually, on paper. It therefore fills a huge gap. It is also the leading source for historians of the Great Famine between 1845 and 1852.

Physical characteristics

The Board of Guardian Papers consist of c.14,000 items comprising a range of documents, volumes (most of which are outsize), files and printed material and occupying c.3,950 PRONI boxes.

Description or Catalogue

See PRONI reference BG for catalogue of the papers. The catalogue is available for consultation in PRONI's Public Search Room.


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Added by PRONI | Last updated on: 09 February 2018