IRA Nominal Rolls

IRA Nominal Rolls

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

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.

Learn More

Need Help From The Irish Genealogy Experts?

Fill in Our Assessment Form for a Free No Obligation Quote

Learn More

Irish Volunteer companies were usually formed around a specific geographic location and drew on the men who lived in that area.  If you can determine your ancestor’s address between 1913 and 1916 it may help to identify the Battalion in which they might have served.  For example, at the time of the 1911 Census James Purfield was residing with his widowed mother, Maggie at 10 Barrow Street in the home of his grandfather, John Power.  The family of six, three generations and a visitor, occupied two of the four rooms in the house.  

Barrow Street, in the Grand Canal Dock area, is found in south side of Dublin City, indicating that James may have been active in the 3rd or 4th Battalions of the Dublin Brigade.  A brief description of the contents of the Nominal Roll Files for the 3rd and 4th Battalions indicated that companies of the 3rd Battalion was active at Boland’s Mills and Mount Street, both of which are in the vicinity of Barrow Street.

The Nominal Rolls for the 3rd Battalion (Military Archives RO/14) include a detailed account by Joseph O’Connor of the activities of D Company of the 3rd Battalion at Bolands Mills.   Further inspection of this file found a reference to James Purfield as a member of B Company who were also in the Boland’s Mills area during Easter Week.
Not only does the file record the recollection that James Purfield was serving with B Company in the Boland’s Mills area, it also identifies the other men of the same company, including the officers of that company.  Further research for Pension Applications and Bureau of Military History Witness Statements for James’ comrades may tell us even more about the actions carried out in that area.  It may be possible to construct a detailed record of what James Purfield might have seen and done during this time.

Even if your ancestor does not appear in these Nominal Rolls, identifying the men with whom he might have served may lead you to additional sources and personal accounts that might refer to your ancestor.  Of course, as can be seen on inspection of these files, not everyone served with their own Volunteer Company and may have been deployed elsewhere in the city or were simply not present that week.  Some of the nominal rolls refer to men who were not present or to men who joined a different company for the duration of the Easter Rising.

The IRA Nominal Rolls for 1916 have been published online by the Irish Military Archives as part of the Military Service Pensions Collection and have been organised in a section titled: Easter Rising 1916 – Records and Documents.  Even if you don’t have an ancestor who was active in Dublin during this week, some of the personal recollections, particularly in the 3rd Battalion Dublin Brigade file, are evocative, giving the reader insight into the challenges faced by the Irish Volunteers during the course of that week.

Talk To The Experts
  • Commission Our Expert Genealogists & Historians To Research Your 1916 Ancestors

    Have You Ever Wondered What Your Ancestors Were Doing During The Rising?

    Just fill in the form below with your enquiry and press the "Send" button.
    Our team will get back to you with a free quote.