Guide to National Archives of Ireland

The Former State Paper Office


The State Paper Office

The State Paper Office was founded in 1702 in order to maintain the papers of the Lord Lieutenant and his Chief Secretary, and was located in Dublin Castle. The State Paper Office survived as a separate entity attached to the Public Record Office of Ireland after 1922, but was fully integrated into the National Archives in 1990. Most state papers dated before 1790 had been transferred to the Public Record Office of Ireland, and so were destroyed in 1922. The surviving records of the former State Paper Office consist in the main of the archives of the Chief Secretary's Office and associated bodies, ranging in date from 1790-1924. The holdings of the former State Paper Office are itemised under the headings firstly of principal records, and secondly of records which were transferred at an earlier stage to the former Public Record Office of Ireland.

See Kieran Flanagan, 'The Chief Secretary's Office: A Bureaucratic Enigma', Irish Historical Studies, 24, 1984, pages 197-225.

(a) Principal Records of the Former State Paper Office

Registered Papers, Including Outrage Papers

The Registered Papers range in date from 1818-1924, and are the largest single class of records of the Chief Secretary's Office. They are so called because brief descriptions of incoming documents were entered in annual registers, which are still in use as finding aids (Cases 20-25). The methods of classification varied over the years in ways too complex to describe here, but for example, from 1826 papers relating to crime were classed as 'first division', and all others as 'second division'. When referring to the registers, it should be remembered that papers specified in entries have frequently been attached to later papers on the same subject, and that a certain proportion of papers listed are no longer extant. The class of documents known as Outrage Papers consists of reports to the Chief Secretary on crimes and disturbances around the country. These are arranged in county order from 1835-52, but after that date must be located by consulting the registers under the headings 'Constabulary' (Royal Irish Constabulary) or 'Police' (Dublin Metropolitan Police). For further information, see Tom Quinlan, 'The Registered Papers of the Chief Secretary's Office', Irish Archives, Autumn 1994, pages 5-21.

Government Letter Books

These records range in date from 1827-1921 and consist of correspondence between the Lord Lieutenant or the Chief Secretary and principal Secretaries of State in England.

Official Papers

There are two principal series of Official Papers, covering the years 1790-1831 and 1832-80. The Official Papers are similar in content to the Registered Papers, consisting of incoming correspondence to the Chief Secretary's Office, but after 1818 contain papers which were not registered, frequently because of size. Series I papers are classified by year and subject (accounts, ecclesiastical, fisheries, health, etc), while Series 2 papers are arranged by year only, and the finding aids consist of a 6-volume calendar (held behind desk) and two card indexes. The Official Papers, Miscellaneous and Assorted (OPMA), appear to be a third series, containing among much varied material the Tithe Defaulters' Lists 1831-2, with substantial coverage of landholders in Counties Kilkenny, Tipperary and Wexford, and partial lists for Counties Cork, Limerick, Louth and Waterford. See Suzanne C Hartwick, 'Schedules of the Clergy Relief Fund 1831: Tithe Defaulters and Their Occupations', Irish Genealogist, 8, 1990, pages 82-102.

Rebellion Papers

The Rebellion Papers cover the period 1790-1807 and consist mainly of correspondence and reports sent to the Chief Secretary during the period of the 1798 and 1803 rebellions. As well as reports on the state of law and order throughout the country, the papers also contain records of courts martial, correspondence of informers, papers concerning state prisoners, and papers seized by the authorities from suspects. Finding aids consist of a 5-volume calendar, with separately bound indexes (Case 5).

State of the Country Papers

There are two series of State of the Country Papers, both similar in content: Series 1, 1796- 1831, arranged by year and county, and Series 2, 1790 - 1831, arranged by year only. Both series deal with the state of law and order throughout the country, and comprise in the main reports and letters from military officers and magistrates. Finding aids consist of a 2-volume calendar and incomplete card index for Series 1, and for Series 2 a draft list and card index covering the years 1790-1808.

Convict Department

The records of this department consist of Registers of Convicts Sentenced to Transportation 1836-57, Registers of Convicts Sentenced to Penal Servitude 1853-78, Prisoners' Petitions and Cases 1778-1836, Free Settlers' Papers 1828-48, and Convict Reference Files 1836-1922. See National Archives on-line guide, and Rena Lohan, 'Sources in the National Archives for Research into Transportation of Irish Convicts to Australia (1791-1853)', Irish Archives, Spring 1996, pages 13-28. To mark the Australian Bicentenary in 1988, the most important of the records relating to transportation were microfilmed and a computerised index created by the National Archives, which can now also be searched on-line.

Irish Crime Records

These consist of a small series of bound volumes covering the period 1848-93, and relating to outrages, disturbances and Fenian activity. See single volume index of Fenian suspects.

Fenian Papers

These papers cover the period 1857-83, and the principal files are the F Series 1866-7, the R Series 1867-74, the A Series 1864-83 (American Consular), and a series containing over 500 photographs of Fenian suspects. For further information, see Breandán Mac Giolla Choille, 'Fenian Documents in the State Paper Office', Irish Historical Studies, 16, 1969, pages 258-84.

Crime Branch Special Records

These records cover the period 1887-1920 and consist of files and confidential reports.

Police Records

These records are dated 1848-1921. For details of Royal Irish Constabulary and Dublin Metropolitan Police service registers, see Copies of Records in Other Repositories.

Privy Council Office

This office dealt with the formal authentication of acts of state, as well as special matters such as lunatic asylums, time and place of quarter sessions, transport and by-laws. The surviving order books, minute books, papers and files cover the period 1800-1922. See also Privy Council Office maps.

Chief Crown Solicitor's Office

This officer was the government's law agent, advising on and undertaking Crown prosecutions. The records cover the period 1815-1922. See also Frazer Collection, and for records after 1922, see Chief State Solicitor's Office.

Records of Prisons Administration

These are records of the Government Prisons Office 1836-80, the Office of Inspector-General of Prisons 1836-80, and the General Prisons Board 1877-1928. Correspondence Registers are at Cases 12-16, and see also Prisons and Places of Detention.

(b) Records transferred at an earlier stage from the State Paper Office to the Public Record Office

Cholera Papers

Records of the Board of Health relating to the cholera epidemic of 1832-4, and consisting mostly of applications for financial assistance from local committees.

Customs and Excise Papers

These records cover the period 1778-1837 and are divided into two main series, Establishment Papers and Administration Papers. See also Customs Minutes Books.

Poor Law Commissioners' Papers

These papers are dated 1822-57.

Privy Council Office Maps

These consist of 143 maps dated 1811-88 and relating to boundary revisions, unions and divisions of parishes, graveyards in Belfast, tramways, and other matters.


These consist of formal notices by the Lord Lieutenant and Privy Council in relation to maintenance of law and order and other matters. There are two series of Proclamations, printed and engrossed, and there is also a card index of persons, places and subjects mentioned in them.

Relief Commission Records

This Commission was established to supervise the administration of relief to famine victims following the failure of the potato crop in 1845. Its records cover the period 1845-7 and include Reports on the potato crop 1845-6, and Incoming correspondence 1845-7. See Marianne Cosgrave, 'Sources in the National Archives for Researching the Great Famine: the Relief Commission Papers', Irish Archives, Autumn 1995, pages 3-12. The National Archives also holds records relating to relief work carried out by the Society of Friends (Quakers).


Indexes and calendars to various records destroyed in 1922.

Schedules of Crown and Quit rents, Innocent Papists' lands, etc, 1663-1827.

Letter book of Lord Justices Blessington and Wolseley 1696.

Oath rolls for Lords Lieutenant and other high officials 1714-1868.

Minute Books of Committee on Dublin Coal Trade 1758-96.

Reports of Court Fees Commission 1814-31.

King's and Queen's letters 1817-81, re appointments, leave of absence and grants of arms.

County Treasurers' Accounts 1837-76.

Letter books of Ecclesiastical Commissioners for Ireland 1849-69.

Set of Ordnance Survey 6-Inch Maps showing revisions of territorial boundaries, lodged in Privy Council Office under 1854 Act.

Minute Books and some reports and returns of Endowed Schools and Primary Education Commissions 1868.

Lists of polling districts 1873.

Manuscript of published report of Queen' s Colleges Commission 1884.

Correspondence, minutes and miscellaneous papers of Boundary Commission 1885.

Manuscript of published report, minute books and some correspondence of Land Acts Commission 1886.