Last week the depositions collected in the aftermath of the 1641 rebellion were published online. The depositions, which are free to access, amount to what were witness statements of survivors, collected by government officials. These are an incredible insight into Ireland in the 17th century and  how people at the time perceived what was happening around them.

Their value cant be overstated as the 1641 rebellion is one of the most contentious issues of Irish history, even today the events of the mid 17th century shape cultural identities in Ireland.

Before you jump in trying to find out what your family did or had done to them, there are a few things worth noting  – firstly the depositions are not a historical account for what actually happened in 1641 (see below for the online crash course on the 1641 rebellion).  They are a series of personal testimonies where people in some cases offer up second hand accounts of what happened. They are also biased giving only one side to the rebellion, none the less they allow us understand how people of the time interpreted the 1641 rebellion and give us an idea of what was happening. They are also an incredible window into life in Ireland in the mid 17th century.

Tracing your family

If your looking for family its worth tracing protestant ancestors rather than catholic ones as a vast majority of the accounts are from protestants and about protestants. There are a few accounts which relate to Presbyterians, Catholics and Apostates.

Spelling on the website, is as it was in the 17th century  e.g. my surname Dwyer is spelt Dwyre in some accounts. There is an automatic prompter for all names/terms which makes it easy to find all variations of your name.

1641 Crash course

Before you get into the depositions its worth getting some background to the 1641 rebellion, here’s some online resources that will give you a crash course in less than an hour!

Perhaps start with this article from which examines the early stages of the rebellion and some of the reasons why it happened. Then listen to Micheal O Siochru’s take on it here . O Siochru is one of Ireland’s foremost historians on the 17th century and was involved in the project to digitise the depositions. He speaks about the depositions towards the end of the interview. Finally there are several interviews with historians here on the BBC’s history website about the rebellion.

The Depositions

Create an account, its really simple – just add an email and a password here

Enjoy but i don’t believe everything you read – its highly unlikely people resorted to cannibalism……..

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