Posted by on 16 March 2010 in Record Collections

Earlier this week we published online a fantastically rich collection of Irish records entitled the Ireland, Famine Relief Commission Papers, 1845 – 1847.  These 7000 original letters were written by Irish citizens who were requesting help during the Great Famine in the mid 19th century.   I was deeply touched upon reading these harrowing accounts of life during the Famine, which were 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.

One record that caught my eye was 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 these records have gone online so please do have a look and share your thoughts.

You can access the Ireland, Famine Relief Commission Papers by clicking here.



Love the blog! It is a great addition to your website. If you enjoyed this history you should read “Angela’s Ashes”. Amazing!

17 March 2010 at 10:14 am
Steve Collins 

An elightning blog which reminds us all of ‘yesteryear’ and the stark reality of those times that people experienced as the ‘norm’. My feelings go out to Patrick Browne who was caught in the middle between his survival, pride and dignity.

Keep them coming Annabel, you have a way with words.

17 March 2010 at 10:17 am

Great blog. Would love more Irish records on the site.

17 March 2010 at 10:46 am
Mags Hawkins 

Great blog Annabel, well done!! This is just what Ancestry needed – something which is informative and upbeat while being easily accessible, reminding us of important historical events which helps put our troubles into perspective.

17 March 2010 at 12:18 pm

Fantastic blog and a great addition to the ancestry website. The article is both interesting and informative. Having read this and some of the papers, I look forward to reading new blogs on the site.

18 March 2010 at 6:53 am

Of true historic value. Thank you Ancestry for bringing this information to our screens in such a user-friendly manner. The service you offer is brilliant.

23 March 2010 at 6:29 pm