The Irish Military Archives have published a wealth of material for researching the 1916 Rising on their website. Amongst this vast collection are the IRA Nominal Rolls. This record set, with the designation RO, was largely created in 1935 to identify men and women who were active from 23rd April 1916 up to 30th September 1923. The IRA Nominal Rolls were gathered for the purpose of assist the verification of individual military pension applications. Part of this collection relates specifically to the period of the 1916 Rising.
Created 18 years after the events of Easter 1916, the IRA Nominal Rolls are based on the recollections of those who were present, so cannot be seen as a definitive record of participation. However, it is still a fascinating and valuable source for anyone with an ancestor who may have been active during the 1916 Rising. Contributors were asked to identify the strength of each Battalion and Company of the Irish Volunteers that were mobilised for Easter Week 1916 as well as the names and rank of active Volunteers and the areas in which they fought. The focus of the collection is largely the Dublin area and there are eleven files that document the Irish Citizen Army, the five Dublin Battalions, the 1st Brigade Headquarters, Kimmage Garrison, Tyrrelspass and the Manchester IRA as well as a Dublin Brigade General file.
Names of Active Volunteers in the IRA Nominal Rolls
The most valuable part of this collection are the lists of names of men and women who were active during Easter Week. For example, in the Dublin Brigade General File (RO/011) there are lists of the Jacob’s Factory Garrison (147 names) from Dómhnall Ó Rioghbhardáin, a list of men in Jacob’s Factory, the General Post Office, Four Courts, Ashbourne and Kerry extracted from the Military Service Pension file of Sean Colbert, a copy of the GPO Garrison Roll of Honour by Liam Daly and a fifteen page alphabetical list of 467 men and women with their rank, address, unit and organisation.
In the 1st Battalion Dublin Brigade File (RO/012) are lists of the Irish Volunteers who served with A, B, C, D, F and G Companies of the 1st Battalion Irish Volunteers as well as some of the 2nd Battalion and Na Fianna who served in Upper Brunswick Street, Church Street, North King Street and Four Courts areas. As the cover letters that accompany these lists stress, the information is based on the recollection of the authors and are not necessarily complete.
Identifying Battalion and Company Areas in the IRA Nominal Rolls
Even if you don’t find evidence of your ancestor in these lists, the files can be useful in other ways. The Dublin Brigade was made up of five battalions and each battalion was divided into companies. If you are trying to track down an ancestor who may have been active in 1916 you first need to try and identify the Irish Volunteer Company with which they might have served. According to a report written by Piaras Béaslaí recalling the organisation and strength of the Dublin Brigade of the Irish Volunteers during Easter Week 1916 (Military Archives, RO/011), Béaslaí describes the five battalions of the Dublin Brigade and their location during Easter Week. The first and second battalion were located on the north side of the City, the third and fourth were on the south side and the fifth battalion was located in Fingal. Béaslaí was with the first battalion and describes how it was organised into six companies; A, B, C, E, F and G.