My Ancestor Was A … Policeman

According to Kenny’s Manufacturers’ Directory there were 11,643 people making up the police force in Ireland in 1911.   To locate your ancestor’s RIC service record, first search Jim Herlihy’s The Royal Irish constabulary: a complete alphabetical list of officers and men, 1816-1922 to obtain your ancestor’s Service Number in order to use the RIC registers quickly and easily.  Should your ancestor have been recorded as an RIC officer on a civil record such as marriage or the birth of his child, this will assist you in determining when your ancestor joined the RIC.

Then use this Service Number to search for your ancestor’ RIC record.  Both Herlihy’s book and the RIC registers on microfilm can be found in the National Archives of Ireland.

Should you already have your ancestor’s marriage record, the date of marriage on the service record will assist you in confirming the correct entry.  It would also aid in establishing both your ancestor and his wife’s counties of origin, which will help in determining whether the addresses supplied at the time of marriage were the addresses of their origin or that of their residences at the time, given that RIC officers could not serve in their home county.

If you don’t have your ancestor’s marriage record, his service record will provide you with the date of marriage on which to base a search of the civil marriage indexes.

The RIC registers normally give the following information:

  • full name
  • age
  • height
  • religious affiliation
  • native county
  • trade or calling
  • marital status
  • native county of wife
  • date of appointment
  • counties in which the man served
  • length of service
  • promotions, as well as any punishments
  • date of retirement and/or death
  • details of injuries received

The records also show who recommended your ancestor to the RIC.  This can be important in helping to identify an exact place of origin, since the recommendations usually came from an RIC Sub Inspector, local clergymen or magistrate, who knew the recruit personally.

In the example shown above of an RIC record you can see that the information given is: RIC number; name (surname and Christian names); age when appointed (the minimum age was 19, 18 if they were the son of an RIC man and the maximum age was 27); height in feet and inches (a minimum of 5ft 9inches, for sons of RIC men it was lowered to 5ft 8inches); native county; religion (in this example the ‘C’ stands for ‘Roman Catholic’ and the ‘Pres.’ for ‘Presbyterian’); if married, the date of marriage (an RIC man had to have served for 7 years before being given permission to marry); the native county of his wife; who recommended him to the RIC (in these examples they were all recommended by RIC Sub Inspectors); trade or calling; date of appointment or re-appointment; allocation – to which county, in order of the date of service in each; promotions or reductions – the date of, and to what rank (in this example one of the men was promoted to ‘P[olice] A[cting] Sergt. [Sergeant]’ and ‘P[olice] Sergt.’); any rewards, marks of distinction; punishments, and if fined, the amount; if discharged, dismissed, resigned or died; details of injuries received while on duty and the date (in this example none of the men received injuries).

If you are searching for your RIC ancestor in the census, please remember that RIC officers could not serve in their county of origin, and were usually recorded by the census in their local RIC barracks under their initials only.  Also please note that searching by ‘occupation’ will not show up an RIC officer as this field on Form H (Barrack Return) refers to occupation prior to joining, as opposed to on Form A (Household Returns) where it refers to current occupation.  Searching for ‘RIC’ in the occupation field will usually show up RIC Pensioners, which can also be of use.

You might also find out more information about your RIC ancestor in one of our RIC Lists and Directories.  These publications contain such details as: lists of men awarded medals and commendations; lists, service numbers and further details (e.g. deaths, promotions and transfers) of county and district inspectors and head constables; lists of officers in the pay of the coastguard service; lists and locations of barracks and stations; and advertisements of equipment an RIC man might find useful.

Eneclann have also published Curtis’s History of the Royal Irish Constabulary and the RIC Manual and Guide to the Discharge of Duties.  Every RIC man would have been issued with this manual, and it contains such information as how to deal with incidents and crimes and statutes regarding offences.  It’s a great title for understanding the working life of your RIC ancestor.

We also have a new compendium title of all our RIC titles, The RIC Collection.


This entry was posted in Research Tips.