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Court records contain information about people who were involved in litigation or other court matters. Most court records provide lists of people who served as defendants, plaintiffs, jurors, or witnesses. Court records may provide these individuals' residences, occupations, physical descriptions, and family relationships.

Irish court records are broadly classed as temporal or ecclesiastical. The temporal courts include the Courts of Chancery, Exchequer, King's Bench, Common Pleas, and individual county courts. The ecclesiastical courts had jurisdiction over ecclesiastical issues, matrimony, and probate. The ecclesiastical courts include the Prerogative and Consistory. See:

Falley, Margaret Dickson. Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research. 2 vols. Evanston, Illinois: Margaret Dickson Falley, 1961-62. (FHL book Ref 941.5 D27f 2 vols.) The book provides a good description of court records and lists repositories and published inventories of court records. Many of the published inventories she notes are available at the Family History Library. They are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under the following headings:

IRELAND - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES

IRELAND - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES - INDEXES

IRELAND - ARCHIVES AND LIBRARIES - INVENTORIES, REGISTERS, CATALOGS

The Family History Library has few court records. Court records available at the library are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under the following headings:

IRELAND - COURT RECORDS

IRELAND, [COUNTY] - COURT RECORDS

Contents

Temporal Courts

The Temporal Courts evolved from the Curia Regis, or the King's Court. In England, the King was present at the proceedings. In Ireland, the court was usually presided over by the Justiciar.

Court of the Exchequer

“The Court of Exchequer, or that portion of the Curia Regis which went by that name, must have been constituted very soon after the arrival of Henry II in Ireland, as the collection and accounting for the revenue would be one of the first steps of the government established by him. The first reference to the existence of such a Court in Ireland is dated 1203. It is said to have derived its name from the chequered cloth resembling a chess board, which was spread upon the table upon which the King’s accountants paid out the sums due by them. The Court, in its form, followed the English precedent, and was presided over by the Justiciar, with the assistance of the Chancellor, Treasurer and Barons. After a time, the Justiciar ceased to attend, and the Chancellor, probably being unable to attend through the pressure of other business, left his duties to his clerk, who later on became Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Court was at first mainly a Revenue Court and was divided into two sides, the Exchequer of Account, and the Exchequer of Receipt. Before the former appeared the sheriffs to settle their accounts, and any judicial decisions were made in this Court. The Exchequer of Receipt was concerned with the payments and receipts, and its officers checked the accounts.

“It was prohibited by law to try common pleas between party and party in the Court of Exchequer, though it was apparently often evaded, as we find from statutes…passed to enforce the prohibition. The only cases of the kind allowed in the Exchequer were those where the King or his officers there were concerned. The prohibition remained in force till the end of the reign of Elizabeth. But in the reign of James I, we find pleas between parties and parties other than the King’s ministers being pleaded in the Exchequer under the fiction that the plaintiff was a debtor to the King and that through the damage suffered at the hands of the defendant he was the less able (quo minus) to pay his debts. From this time, we have a regular Plea side of the Exchequer.

“About the same time, we find the Court hearing ‘English Bills,’ thus creating a third side, being the Equity or Chancery side of the Exchequer. These bills were brought before the Court under a similar fiction to the suits on the Plea side. Thus there were in the Court of Exchequer three sides, i., the Plea side, ii., the Equity side, iii., the Revenue side. The Equity side was abolished in 1850, while the Plea side and the Revenue side became fused in the Queen’s Bench Division in 1898 under 60 & 61 Vic., c. 66, s. 1.

“The Court was presided over by:
The Lord High Treasurer, the highest officer of the Exchequer, and a Judge in matters of equity. His duties gradually became more or less of a sinecure (little work with pay), and after 1793 became vested in Commissioners who held office till 1817 when the treasuries of England and Ireland were amalgamated.

The Chancellor of the Green Wax of the Exchequer, who had the Seal of the Court, and was a Judge in matters of equity. His office continued till 1817 when…it was granted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer of England.

The Barons, consisting of the Lord Chief Baron, and puisne (inferior) barons, who had judicial power in all causes of law, equity and revenue in their Court.”

The Court of Chancery

“The Court of Exchequer, or that portion of the Curia Regis which went by that name, must have been constituted very soon after the arrival of Henry II in Ireland, as the collection and accounting for the revenue would be one of the first steps of the government established by him. The first reference to the existence of such a Court in Ireland is dated 1203. It is said to have derived its name from the chequered cloth resembling a chess board, which was spread upon the table upon which the King’s accountants paid out the sums due by them. The Court, in its form, followed the English precedent, and was presided over by the Justiciar, with the assistance of the Chancellor, Treasurer and Barons. After a time, the Justiciar ceased to attend, and the Chancellor, probably being unable to attend through the pressure of other business, left his duties to his clerk, who later on became Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Court was at first mainly a Revenue Court and was divided into two sides, the Exchequer of Account, and the Exchequer of Receipt. Before the former appeared the sheriffs to settle their accounts, and any judicial decisions were made in this Court. The Exchequer of Receipt was concerned with the payments and receipts, and its officers checked the accounts.

“It was prohibited by law to try common pleas between party and party in the Court of Exchequer, though it was apparently often evaded, as we find from statutes…passed to enforce the prohibition. The only cases of the kind allowed in the Exchequer were those where the King or his officers there were concerned. The prohibition remained in force till the end of the reign of Elizabeth. But in the reign of James I, we find pleas between parties and parties other than the King’s ministers being pleaded in the Exchequer under the fiction that the plaintiff was a debtor to the King and that through the damage suffered at the hands of the defendant he was the less able (quo minus) to pay his debts. From this time, we have a regular Plea side of the Exchequer.

“About the same time, we find the Court hearing ‘English Bills,’ thus creating a third side, being the Equity or Chancery side of the Exchequer. These bills were brought before the Court under a similar fiction to the suits on the Plea side. Thus there were in the Court of Exchequer three sides, i., the Plea side, ii., the Equity side, iii., the Revenue side. The Equity side was abolished in 1850, while the Plea side and the Revenue side became fused in the Queen’s Bench Division in 1898 under 60 & 61 Vic., c. 66, s. 1.

“The Court was presided over by:
The Lord High Treasurer, the highest officer of the Exchequer, and a Judge in matters of equity. His duties gradually became more or less of a sinecure (little work with pay), and after 1793 became vested in Commissioners who held office till 1817 when the treasuries of England and Ireland were amalgamated.

The Chancellor of the Green Wax of the Exchequer, who had the Seal of the Court, and was a Judge in matters of equity. His office continued till 1817 when…it was granted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer of England.

The Barons, consisting of the Lord Chief Baron, and puisne (inferior) barons, who had judicial power in all causes of law, equity and revenue in their Court.”

The Court of King's (Queen's) Bench

“The Court of the King’s Bench gradually evolved out of the Justiciar’s Court. In this Court the proceedings in ‘placita coronae’ were kept separate from the ‘placita’ or civil actions.” (Italics added)

The Court of Common Pleas

“The Court of Common Bench was originally a part of the Curia Regis. It was a Court purely for the trial of cases between subject and subject, whether real, personal or mixed. The earliest notice of this Court in Ireland is to be found in the Great Charter of Ireland (Early Statues, 1 Hen. III.), where it was laid down that ‘Common Pleas shall not follow our Court, but shall be held in some certain place.’ About 1590, the records of this Court, which had been in the custody of the prothonotary, were removed to Bermingham’s Tower, though many were found to be missing. Many of the Plea Rolls of this Court for the reigns of James I. (1603-1624) and Charles I. (1625-1648) were burnt in a fire which occurred in the Tower, c. 1758.”

 


 

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