Extract from Grand Jury Presentment of Dublin City 1806/07.
The relative shortage of Irish sources makes every record linking a name to a place useful. One of the obscure sources which can be used are the Grand Jury Presentments. Grand Juries were the forerunners of the modern County Councils. They were a panel of major landowners established in each county to make decisions on legal and other matters. Although originally responsible only for the Justice system, but this was gradually expanded to commissioning of local public works, i.e. building of roads and bridges, and maintenance of public buildings (infirmaries, courthouses, jails etc). It funded these works by means of a county tax on land, known as a cess or ‘rates’. Catholics could not legally serve on grand juries until 1793, and even after this date the jury lists were still predominantly Protestant. They met in spring and summer, just after the regular Assizes (local court) sessions. In these sessions they would hear ‘presentments’, i.e. proposals for grants for the construction or maintenance of roads and bridges etc; and they would also hear consider and approve payments to public officials for services rendered. The family history relevance of these documents is that (a) the proposals usually include the names of proposed contractors and (in some counties) the names of the persons providing services (see example from Dublin above) ; and (b) on occasion, they specify the work to be done by reference to the property of individuals. For example ‘to build a bridge over the river Lingane at Maurice Shea’s house’ or ‘to repair .. the mail coach road.. between Timothy Duggan’s ditch and Thomas Butler’s gate, all in the townland of Ballydrihid’ (Both from Limerick Grand Jury Presentments of 1831). These references usually include not only approved projects, but also those proposed, but not approved, for funding.