Earlier this week, Ancestry.com.au published online a fantastically rich collection of Irish records titled the Ireland, Famine Relief Commission Papers, 1845-1847. These 7,000 original letters were written by Irish citizens who were requesting help during the Great Famine in the mid 19th century. These harrowing accounts of life during the Famine provide a stark reminder of just how brutal conditions were at that time.
Between 1845 and 1852, people in Ireland were literally starving to death as result of a disease that killed their potato crops – the staple food for Ireland’s poorest who constituted a third of the population. Overall it’s estimated that a staggering million Irish citizens died as a result of the Famine.
Many of the letters were written by members of local relief committees, the clergy and concerned citizens who didn’t know where else to turn. They were, in fact, pleas of help sent to a Relief Commission that was set up by the English Prime Minister Robert Peel in an attempt to help those worst affected. The majority of the letters refer to the counties of Cork, Galway, Clare, Mayo and Limerick, although these regions weren’t necessarily the worst affected.
Take, for example, a letter from a gentleman called Patrick Browne, written in 1847. He was a Poor law Guardian of Aughrim Parish, and was requesting funds to purchase coffins to bury 16 people who had starved to death. In response he was told that funds were for food only and coffins should be paid for by the parish.
This is the first time the Ireland, Famine Relief Commission Papers have gone online so please take a look and uncover the unique stories found in this record collection.