Offaly History has been collecting primary historical sources in the form of manuscripts, photographs, maps, plans and drawings for many years. Until recently, this material has been kept safe and secure but inaccessible. It was understood that the material would have to be professionally catalogued and carefully preserved before it could be offered as a resource for historians and other researchers. There are hundreds of bound volumes, thousands of manuscript pages and dozens of trunks full to the brim with historical treasures. In 2015, an archivist began the mammoth task of physically rehousing the material in archival boxes, and cataloguing the contents for publication in our new online catalogue which we hope to launch in the coming months.
There are many types of archives in our collection, including estate papers, namely from the Charleville and Geashill estates. The types of records generated by large estates are important for local history research. The rental records contain hundreds of names of tenants with details of their tenancy from year to year.Title deeds, leases and conveyances are often accompanied by maps and drawings and are very useful in charting land ownership and transfer. Similarly, the voluminous financial accounts kept by the estate managers relating to estate income and expenditure, workers’accounts and domestic accounts are crucial to map the progress or decline of an estate over a period of time, and as such are a mine of information to the social and economic historian.
Archives of local industry are also represented in the form of business records of distilleries, bakeries, groceries, builders and many others. These types of records are generally financial in nature – accounting ledgers and such – but contain a wealth of information about trade, customers, and local economic history. Larger business collections contain marketing ephemera and artefacts and are visually very interesting.
Finally, we also have large collections of personal papers, and this material consists of letters, diaries, memoirs, scrapbooks and photographs. This type of archival collection provides the local historian with an eye-witness account of Offaly in times past and is an invaluable addition to the official history of the county.
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