Advances in Royal Irish Constabulary Research
Updated: Jun 1, 2021
This week I have been preparing for a talk that I am giving on the Royal Irish Constabulary (the RIC). The talk will be on September 12 at 7:30 pm for the Irish Special Interest Group of the Edmonton branch of the Alberta Genealogical Society. Special Interest group meetings are generally for branch members only, however, if you are considering joining the Society, you can attend a few trial meetings.
Photo credit: National Library of Ireland, public domain photo from Flickr Commons
I have had a couple of clients with RIC ancestors, and I was refreshing my memory on their projects this week. What struck me was how quickly RIC research has improved since 2015, when I first began to look at their records.
The original RIC records are held in the National Archives of the UK, in Kew, England. The RIC were known to be prolific record keepers. Though not everything has survived, records for the RIC and its predecessor police forces begin in 1816, providing records during some pretty scantily covered years in Irish history. Both Ancestry and FindmyPast have added RIC collections. Both have digital pension records, but not the same ones. FindmyPast has scanned copies of RIC directories, that list things like service numbers, promotions, and recent deaths of members. In 2015, Ancestry had (and still has) an RIC index referring to Family History Library microfilm. Although the index doesn't make it clear, those films are copies of the RIC General Directories, which give good information on the constables, such as height, age, prior occupation, marriage date, county of origin, wife's county of origin, the name of the person who recommended them, and more. They are an excellent resource! Since 2015, those microfilms have now been digitized by FamilySearch, although they are only viewable from a Family History Centre at this point. RIC records are more accessible, and quicker to use than ever before!
RIC (and the earlier police forces') records survive from 1816-1922, and about 85,000 men served. Regardless of politics, religion, or where in Ireland you were from, there is a good chance that someone in your Irish family tree served, even if no one spoke of it after the War of Independence. For more information on researching an RIC ancestor, check if your library carries any of Jim Herlihy's books. He is the foremost expert on the subject, and many genealogical collections will have something that he has written.