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
The names of many of the people involved in the Rising are well known and you can search many records by name. For example, using “Constance Markievicz” as a search term will search across all record series.
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 35/206-207 are profile files of Sinn Fein activists which you can search by name and download the intelligence profiles (1914-1922) from ancestry.co.uk.
- WO 32/4307, WO 32/9523, WO 32/9568, WO32/9574 and WO 32/9575 – various War Office and Commander-in-Chief’s reports on the Rising. The Key despatch from the commander in Chief, Home Forces can be downloaded for free from the gazette.co.uk
- 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
- WO 141/4-9 and WO141/15-28 – records of War Office Registered Papers (Special Series)
- FO 371 – contains reports and correspondence on United States’ opinion and reaction to the Rising and the executions
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 search by name and download intelligence profiles which cover these records at ancestry.co.uk.
- CO 903/19 – records of Dublin Castle: Judicial Division – reports of political activities in Ireland during the period 1885-1919. They provide information on the internal proceedings of the Irish Republican organisations in the Colonial Office. You can search these records by name and download at ancestry.co.uk
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. You can search these records by name and download at ancestry.co.uk
- WO 71/344-358 – records of those men executed between 3 and 12 May 1916 including evidence against the defendants, their statements and proclamations. They include case papers in the Proceedings against Clarke, Pearse, Connolly and the other executed leaders of the 1916 Dublin Rising from the War Office and Judge Advocate General’s Office. Search these records by name and download at ancestry.co.uk
- WO 35/67 – reports and inquiries into the execution of prisoners
- WO 35/94-119 – lists of civilians prosecuted, arranged by case number. WO 35/68, WO 35/96-119 and WO 35/143 contains records of individual files on the prosecution of civilians (Irish Republicans) from the War Office: Army of Ireland. You can search these records by name and download at ancestry.co.uk. Otherwise use the index in WO 35/120 to identify the relevant case number first if the records aren’t online
- 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 and includes files such as:
- HO 144/10309 which contains details of Edward de Valera convicted at Court Martial, Dublin, on 8 May 1916 for armed rebellion and war against H.M. the King and sentenced to death (commuted)
- HO 144/1580/316818 which contains information on the activities of Countess Markievicz (case papers of her court martial trial)
You can also find records of remittances and commutations of sentences in PCOM 6/39. It includes the 80 or so commutations of death sentences of Easter rising prisoners.
7. Policy and political reactions
For The Third Home Rule Bill and Act 1914 and the Suspensory Act 1914 and the Government of Ireland Amendment Act (1916) see the Parliamentary Papers online website (institutional subscription required) and the legislation.gov.uk website.
For Parliamentary debates relating to Ireland see the Parliamentary Papers Online website and House of Commons Parliamentary Sessional Papers online (institutional subscription required).
Key records include:
- CAB 1/21/1 – plea for conciliatory attitude towards Ireland Dec 1916
- CAB 37/147-159 – photocopies of Cabinet Papers relating to Ireland in 1916
- CAB 41/37/17– spread of the rebellious movement throughout Ireland
- HO 45/10810/312350 – report of Royal Commission on Irish Rebellion
- MEPO 2/10674 – news cuttings giving reactions to the Rising
- PRO 30/67/31– Midleton Papers Unionist reaction to the Rising
- PRO 30/89/1-2 – WE Wylie Papers which contain written and printed notes of proceedings during and after Rising
- PRO 30/89/16 – WE Wylie Papers: Easter 1916 which contain photographs of Dublin during and after the rising; copy of the stamp of the Republic (Wylie was involved in the suppression of the rebellion and was one of the key prosecutors at the Courts martial trials)
You can also 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.
The following collections may be of interest:
- Asquith Papers – The Bodleian Library, Oxford University. Also Papers of four of the last six Chief Secretaries and also some of Lords Lieutenant of Ireland
- Various collections including links to online records of veterans interviews – National Archives of Ireland
- Churchill Papers – Cambridge University: Churchill Archives Centre
- Dillon Papers – Trinity College Dublin
- Lloyd George Papers – Parliamentary Archive
- Sir John Maxwell Papers – Princeton University Library
- Redmond Papers –National Library of Ireland
- Ulster Unionist Council Papers (D1327) – Public Record Office of Northern Ireland
- Military Bureau Collection including the Michael Collins Papers – Military Archives, Dublin
- Political and Military Collection – The Linen Hall Library
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)
Sean O’Mahony, Frongoch, University of Revolution (FDR Teoranta 1987)
Michael Hopkinson, The Irish War of Independence (Gill & Macmillan 2002)
Fearghal McGarry, The Rising (Centenary Edition): Ireland: Easter 1916, (OUP 2016)