How to look for records of... Royal Irish Constabulary
How can I view the records covered in this guide?
1. Why use this guide?
This guide will help you find records of the Royal Irish Constabulary. If you are looking for information on someone who served in Royal Irish Constabulary between 1816 and 1922 this guide will tell you how to find relevant records.
2. Essential information
The two types of records which will supply information about Royal Irish Constabulary personnel are service histories and pension records. You can view some records of the Royal Irish Constabulary online such as the service records (see section 3.1) and pension records (see section 4).
The records on the work and administration of the Royal Irish Constabulary are unlikely to contain any personal information on individuals.
3. Service records (1816-1922)
3.1 How do I find a service record?
Search Royal Irish Constabulary service records (HO 184) by name online at findmypast.ie (£).
Alternatively, you can consult the records on microfilm at The National Archives. Follow the guidance below.
Royal Irish Constabulary officers
Consult the book Royal Irish Constabulary: a complete alphabetical list of officers and men to see if there is a service number for an officer. A copy is available behind the enquiries desk in the reading room at Kew.
If the term ‘cadet’ appears instead of a service number, it means that he started service in the Royal Irish Constabulary as an officer. Browse HO 184/45-48 for any records relating to the officer’s service history. Identify a full document reference by date of appointment. They are not arranged by name.
If there is a service number, browse HO 184/1-43 which is the ‘general register’. Find the range which covers the service number you are looking for. The service record should provide the service history up to the point before his appointment as an officer. Find the date of appointment as an officer on the service record. To locate further service history relating to an officer, browse HO 184/45-48. They are arranged by date of appointment as officer.
Royal Irish Constabulary men
Obtain the service number by first consulting the book, Royal Irish Constabulary: a complete alphabetical list of officers and men. A copy is available behind the enquiries desk in the reading room at Kew.
Once you have obtained a service number, browse HO 184/1-43 which is the ‘general register’. Find the range which covers the service number you are looking for.
Royal Irish Constabulary Auxiliary division
Find service records for temporary constables (or ‘Black and Tans’) who served in the Auxiliary division in HO 184/50-51. These files are arranged by service number. To locate a service number first consult the book Royal Irish Constabulary: a complete alphabetical list of officers and men.
3.2 What information do they contain?
The registers normally give the following information:
- full name
- age (but not full date of birth nor information about parents)
- religious affiliation
- native county
- trade or calling
- marital status
- native county of wife (but not her name)
- date of appointment
- counties in which the man served
- length of service
- date of retirement and/or death
- reference numbers quoted refer to papers which have not survived
3.3 Other sources
Browse an incomplete set of transcriptions of service records on the website Ireland: Genealogy Project Archives. They are arranged by county under the heading ‘military and constabulary’. A copy is available behind the enquiries desk in the reading room at Kew.
4. Pension records (from 1873)
4.1 Where to find?
Search the Royal Irish Constabulary pension registers and allowances granted to officers, men and staff, and to their widows and children, between 1873 and 1922, on Findmypast.co.uk (£), drawn mostly from series PMG 48. The original registers were arranged either alphabetically by surname or by pension award number. They normally include the place of residence of the recipient.
Find information on pension options when the Constabulary was disbanded in 1922 in CO 904/175-176. The files are arranged by county alphabetically.
Search for lists of officers recommended for pensions when the Constabulary was disbanded in HO 184/129-209. These records are arranged by districts with separate series for British and Irish recruits.
Pensions and allowances awarded to RIC members and their dependents, including those who served as temporary constables (‘Black and Tans’) after 1919 are in series HO 340.
4.2 Other sources
A list of superannuations awarded to police in Ireland before the unified force was created was published in 1832 in House of Commons Sessional Papers 1831-1832, XXVI 465. Locate the published source via Parliamentary Papers. The list supplies:
• period of service
• amount granted
• nature of injury leading to the superannuation
5. Work and administration of the Royal Irish Constabulary (from 1905)
- police reports
- papers on criminal offences
- attacks on the police
- the Special Branch
- establishments circulars and instructions
- constabulary codes
Other records include:
- Correspondence with the Treasury in series HO 184
- Intelligence notes in series CO 903
- A memorandum on the training and organisation of the force in 1905 in file CO 884/9/3
- Papers relating to RIC involvement in combating the disturbances throughout Ireland between 1916 and 1922 in series WO 35. Reports on assassinations and police operations are included
- Information about the expenditure on the force for the period 1920-1922 can be found in T 192
- Other administrative material can be found in Treasury Board Papers in series T 1 up to 1919, and for the later period in Finance Files in series T 160, Supply Files in series T 161, Establishment Files in series T 162, General Files in series T 163 and Pensions and Superannuation Files in series T 164
- Correspondence of the secretary to the governor of Northern Ireland are in series HO 267 which includes some policy files and a few case files on pensions and compensation claims
6. Background information
6.1 Royal Irish Constabulary ranks
There were two ways to enter service in the Royal Irish Constabulary, either by promotion through ranks or by obtaining a cadetship (or officer rank). Officer ranks are as follows: sub-inspector 1st, 2nd or 3rd class.
The rank structure of men:
|Before 1883||After 1883|
|1st class head constable (highest non-commissioned rank)||1st class head constable (highest non-commissioned rank)|
|2nd class head constable||2nd class head constable|
|constable||constable (re-titled sergeant in 1918)|
|acting constable (introduced 1859)||acting sergeant (abolished 1918)|
|1st class sub-constable|
|2nd class sub-constable|
6.2 The role of the Royal Irish Constabulary
The Royal Irish Constabulary was responsible for the peace of Ireland with the exception of Dublin, which retained its own police force, the Dublin Metropolitan Police.
Initially, the main function of the Royal Irish Constabulary was keeping the peace which included the suppression of armed rebellion, sectarian riots or agrarian disturbances. Their role expanded when it inherited the functions of the Revenue Police which involved inquiries on behalf of departments of state, collected agricultural statistics, enforced the fishery laws and performed a variety of duties under the laws relating to food and drugs, weights and measures, explosives and petroleum.
6.3 Auxiliary division and ‘Black and Tans’
From 1920 to 1922, Royal Irish Constabulary ‘Temporary Constables’ made up largely of ex-soldiers and commonly called the ‘Black and Tans’, were employed to suppress revolution in Ireland, alongside an Auxiliary Division (ADRIC) of former military officers. These former officers, like the Black and Tans, were mostly First World War veterans, including those who had served in the Royal Flying Corps.
6.4 Formation and disbandment
The formation of the Irish Constabulary was initiated by the Irish Constabulary (Ireland) Act 1836. Prior to this, the Irish police force at the time of the Act of Union of 1800 was still composed only of small groups of sub-constables.
Before 1867, The Royal Irish Constabulary was known as the Irish Constabulary. Under the new name, the duties of the Constabulary were gradually extended. The Royal Irish Constabulary was disbanded on 30 August 1922. Pensions continued to be paid by the paymaster general in London, and the service records of members of the force passed to the Home Office which were subsequently transferred to The National Archives.
From 1922 to 2001, The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) became the police force in Northern Ireland. In 2001, it became assimilated into the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
7. Records in other archives and organisations
Find background information relating to the Royal Irish Constabulary at the National Archives of Ireland in Dublin. Even though Royal Irish Constabulary service records were passed onto the Home Office in London, it is still possible to find other information in Ireland.
Find a computer database of Irish Constabulary service records from 1822 -1922 at The Police Museum in Northern Ireland. You can also find other items which relate to the history of the Constabulary in Ireland such as uniforms, photographs, medals and other equipment relating to policing in Ireland from the early 19th century to the present day.
8. Further reading
Search The National Archives’ library catalogue to see what is available to consult at Kew.
Learn more about tracing your Irish ancestors including those in the Royal Irish Constabulary by viewing our webinar tracing your Irish ancestry.
Jim Herlihy, The Royal Irish Constabulary: A Complete Alphabetical List of Officers and Men, 1816-1922 (Four Courts Press Ltd, 1999)
Jim Herlihy, The Royal Irish Constabulary: A Short History and Genealogical Guide (Four Courts Press Ltd, 1997)
Robert, Kee, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism (Penguin, 2000)
Neil Cobbett, Guide to Irish Records and Sources (unpublished source)