Cork Poor Law Unions (Workhouse Boards of Guardians)

Cork City and County Archives holds the surviving archives for each of the 14 poor law unions in Cork .

Boards of Guardians/Poor Law Unions/Workhouses

Poor law unions and their workhouses were established by the Poor Law (Ireland) Act, 1838, as a response to widespread destitution, and each was governed by a Board of Guardians. Minute books, recording the proceedings of meetings are the largest series of poor law records that survive, however workhouse registers, financial accounts and correspondence and several other series also survive for some areas.  Many subjects are recorded, such as the struggle to both fund and manage the workhouse and related services, attitudes to poverty, developments in public health provision, and the care of the infirm, the destitute, children, and the mentally ill. From the 1880’s, glimpses of the rise of nationalism may be found in some collections. (For information on workhouse/poor law records here relevant to family history and genealogy, see our genealogy pages)

Inmate Records

For genealogical purposes, the most informative documents are those recording inmates (i.e. people admitted to the workhouse). These comprise indoor relief registers and related records, that record the name, address, occupation, age, sex, condition, date of admission/birth, and date of discharge or death of inmates.

We hold extensive inmate and related records for the following poor law unions/workhouses in Cork:

  • Cork Poor Law Union and workhouse c1840-1923  (Cork City and rural hinterland) 
  • Kinsale Poor Law Union and workhouse 1841 - 1907 (West Cork)
  • Midleton Poor Law Union  and workhouse 1841 - 1925 (East Cork)

A small amount of inmate and related records are also available here for the following poor law unions/ workhouses in Cork;

  • Bandon Poor Law Union, West Cork, 1920-1925
  • Macroom Poor Law Union, Mid-West Cork, 1916-1921
  • Youghal Poor Law Union, East Cork, 1848-1851 

For the other poor law unions/workhouses in County Cork, it is mainly administrative records that survive, such as minute books recording the proceedings of meetings of the board of guardians of each union. These will give information on what was happening in the workhouse/poor law union, but they only contain occasional and limited personal information about inmates. Minute books do record the names of officials and staff of the board/union/workhouse.

Bantry Workhouse Board of Guardians Minute Book 1847
Bantry Workhouse Board of Guardians Minute Book 1847