Find My Past gives you access to browse, search, and view the mid 19th-century record collections of the Irish Revenue Police.
This specialist police force targeted illegal distilleries that avoided customs and excise duties on alcohol. In other words, the poitin makers! They were nicknamed the Potcheen Hussars.
There are nearly 38 thousand records from 1830 to 1857 in the collection from across the island of Ireland.
Irish Revenue Police
The Irish Revenue Police was a specialist force to police the making and selling of liquor. They were facing gangs who would resort to violence, so they were armed.
The available records start in 1830, but the first deployed units were in 1818 in Connacht. Although units spread through the country, the majority of Revenue Police were stationed in the west of the country.
A unit was made up of a lieutenant, a sergeant, and ten to thirty privates. They would go out hunting for illegal stills for a period spanning two nights a week.
The Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) was the general main police force in the country. They eventually took over the policing of liquor, and the Revenue Police was disbanded in 1857.
If you find an ancestor or relative in the Revenue Police in the 1850s, you should check if they turn up in the RIC records. Over 550 revenue police transferred to the RIC to continue their duties.
We have a separate article on the Royal Irish Constabulary records on Find My Past.
What Do The Records Tell You?
There were two levels of recruitment into the Revenue Police. Young men enlisted either as privates or as lieutenants. It’s worth knowing that privates couldn’t be married.
Most of the records are details of their appointments. However, there are also disciplinary accounts of dismissals for various reasons e.g. drunkenness on the job.
The transcripts on Find My Past include these details:
- first and last name
- date of the document
- county of origin (not always provided)
- station address
It may be a little difficult to identify relatives in this collection. This is because the officer’s county of origin is not always provided.
However, if you know that your relative was part of a revenue police station, this will make it a lot easier.
Find My Past has also got the original image of the page in the records.
Here’s an example from one page where a sergeant and a private are discharged.
How To Browse The Revenue Police Records On Find My Past
Find My Past has placed this collection under their “Education and Work” category.
Here’s one way to browse to the collection:
- Use the top Search menu to “Search all records”
- Set the country in the left navigation pane to Ireland
- Expand the “Education and Work” category in the left pane
- Click on “Occupations”
- Click the “Browse Record set” link beside the Record set input box
- Choose the “Irish Revenue Police” record set as your main filter.
You can now apply additional filters, particularly on the name fields. Be judicious about the first name as sometimes initials were used.
Don’t over-filter on locations
I also find that location is not very useful. Here’s an example – the second line in the excerpt of an image reads as “John Gamble of Ballina”.
A simple search on Gamble will find this transcript.
Ballina is a town in County Mayo, but if I add Mayo as a location filter – I get no results. If I use the suggested filter for Ballina (as in “Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland) – I also get no results.
Are The Royal Irish Constabulary Records Available Elsewhere?
The original records for the Royal Irish Constabulary are held by the National Archives in England.
Don’t confuse this with the National Archives of Ireland.!
These source records are available on microfilm at the National Archives building in Kew, England.
If you’re interested in more history and background, then this book on the Revenue Police by police historian Jim Herlihy is a great resource.
Overview Of Irish Court And Prison Records
We have a general overview of online archives of Irish court and prison records.
The article covers the main paid and free sites that have collections with online access.