How to look for records of... Ireland’s Easter Rising 1916
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
1. Why use this guide?
Use this guide if you are looking for original sources on the Easter Rising held at The National Archives.
On Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, members of the Irish Volunteers and the Citizen’s Army occupied buildings in Dublin and proclaimed an Irish Republic.
2. Essential information
The records at The National Archives have detailed information on the political and military activities as well as the events leading up to and following the Easter Rising.
They contain detailed information on some key figures of the Rising.
Discovery, our catalogue, contains descriptions of our records and of records held at over 2,500 other archives (mostly within the UK).
To view records held at The National Archives that can’t be downloaded, you will need to either visit The National Archives at Kew or pay for copies to be sent to you. Alternatively, you can pay for research.
To find out how to view records held at other archives please contact the relevant archive directly.
3. General search tips
Look for mentions in this guide of:
- department references such as WO (War Office) or CO (Colonial Office)
- record series references such as WO 35 or CO 903
These will help you to focus your search for relevant records using the advanced search option in our catalogue.
Search for relevant records in our catalogue using keywords or a combination of keywords such as:
- Irish AND rebellion
- Ireland AND rebellion
- Easter AND Rising
- Disturbances AND Ireland
- Prisoners AND Irish
- Irish AND nationalist
For general tips on searching the catalogue, use the Discovery help page.
4. Key record series
You may find the following record series particularly useful – click on the links to find out more about them:
- WO 35 – includes records of army activities in Ireland including the maintenance of order during the Troubles (1916-1922)
- WO 32 – you can find Commander in Chief reports and other reports about the rebellion
- CO 904 – records of the British administration in Ireland prior to 1922
- CO 903 – reports of political activities in Ireland during the period 1885-1919
You can also browse these records to find document references.
5. Intelligence reports and inquiries
The records in CO 904, known as the Dublin Castle Records, are a major source of information for the Easter Rising. In particular, the following may be of interest:
- CO 904/23, part 2 – detailed analysis of the numbers and arms of the Irish Volunteers and part 3 -reports from British agents ‘Chalk’ and ‘Granite’ who were placed within the Irish Volunteers
- CO 904/193-216 – intelligence profiles of leading nationalists, including figures like Eammon De Valera, later President of Ireland. These date mainly from 1917 but include people who were involved prior to 1917
You can also search our catalogue using keywords for intelligence reports and inquiries within HO 45 and HO 144.
6. Courts martial and prisoners
6.1 Courts martial records
The following records relate to courts martial following the Easter Rising.
- CO 903/19 – intelligence records listing 171 people tried by courts martial
- WO 71/344-349 – records of the 15 men executed between 3 and 12 May 1916 including evidence against the defendants, their statements and proclamations
- WO 35/67 – reports and inquiries into the execution of prisoners
- WO 35/94-119 – lists of civilians prosecuted, arranged by case number. Use the index in WO 35/120 to identify the relevant case number first.
- WO 35/97 – reports of prosecutions of civilians. Search WO 35/97 by name in the advanced search option of our catalogue
- WO 35/132 – a register of cases tried by courts martial
HO 45 and HO 144 contain records relating to nationalist prisoners, mainly in gaols in England. You can search our catalogue using terms such as ‘Irish AND nationalist’ or ‘Irish AND prisoners’ within HO 45 and HO 144.
7. Policy and political reactions
Use the advanced search option in our catalogue to identify relevant Cabinet papers in the following record series.
- CAB 16 – Committee of Imperial Defence, Ad Hoc Sub-committees
- CAB 21 – registered files (viewable online)
- CAB 23 – War Cabinet and Cabinet minutes (viewable online )
- CAB 24 – War Cabinet and Cabinet: Memoranda (viewable online)
- CAB 27 – War Cabinet and Cabinet: Miscellaneous Committees
When you search our catalogue, try using the keyword ‘Ireland’ and restrict your search to the dates 1916-1922.
Also use the advanced search option to search by date within ZHC 2 for parliamentary debates (Hansard) which contains debates of the British Parliament in relation to Ireland. To do this, enter an asterisk [*] as your keyword, date(s) in the date range field and enter ZHC 2 with the reference field.
Alternatively you can search for copies of the Hansard online (£).
8. Records held elsewhere
To find records held elsewhere, search our catalogue and refine your results using the filters.
In particular the following archives are worth exploring:
- Public Record office of Northern Ireland
- National Archives of Ireland
- Military Archives, Dublin
- The Linen Hall Library
- Cambridge University: Churchill Archives Centre
- Parliamentary Archives
9. Further reading
Some of the publications below may be available to buy from The National Archives’ bookshop. Alternatively, click on the links to view the books in The National Archives’ library catalogue and see what is available to consult at our building in Kew.
Michael Foy and Brian Barton, Easter Rising 1916 (Stroud: Sutton, 2000)
Brian Button, From behind a closed door: secret court martial records of the Easter rising (Blackstaff Press, 2002)