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Using the William Smith O'Brien Petition

The index is accessed through a web browser which is probably already on your PC. It requires Internet Explorer version 5.x. If you do not have one of these browsers a copy of Internet Explorer 5.5 is included on the CD.

There are 166 different petitions on the CD. Each was collected at a specific place, or throughout a county during the winter of 1848-49. Large public meetings were held around the countryside to get people to sign. The poster for one of those meetings appears below (click on the image to see larger size).

Once the petitions were collected locally they were sent to the Earl of Clarendon, the Lord Lieutenant General and General Governor of Ireland. Below is an example of what the signatures on the petitions look like (click on image to see larger size).

Thankfully Ruth Lawler has taken the time to decipher these petitions and publish them with Eneclann!

How the CD works

1. The Home Page

The home page gives the user access to information about the publication, how to use it, technical support, and most importantly the data itself.

2. The Standard Search

To search the index, users can select three search forms (Standard, Soundex and Expert). The Standard Search Form (above) allows users to search the index for a variety of different types of information. In this example, the user is searching for Arthur Mullins.

3. Search Results

The search results are displayed as a list at the bottom-right of the screen. Clicking on each name will display the relevant information in the main view area. In this search example a single record was found with the name Arthur Mullins. The record selected relates to a farmer from Drumragh, Co. Tyrone.

4. Petition Headers
(click image for larger size)

There are 166 different petitions on this CD, so it is important to know what petition was signed by each signatory. While all the petitions were in favour of O'Brien, the nature of each petition varied enormously. Some were from political sympathisers, whereas others were thoroughly opposed to his politics, as is clear from the petition shown here signed by Arthur Mullins. At the end of each entry in this CD there is a link to a scanned image of the petition header signed.

5. Locating the signature

The petitions were often signed by groups of people who may have been related, so it is important to know exactly where a signature appears on a list. This database follows the format of the original. If you want to find out whose signatures appear before and after an entry you have found just click 'Locate' on the top menu. This will show the signature on the left hand screen in the order it appears on the original petition. The left hand frame is also used for listing all 166 petitions, and enabling the user to access each directly without having to go through a search.

6. What sort of people signed the petition?
Numbers and geographic spread: There are over 80,000 signatures on these petitions, signed in 31 out of 32 Irish counties (the exception being County Offaly or King's County). Almost 50% came from County Dublin. About 10,000 signatures were gathered in England (mainly Liverpool, Manchester and Bradford).
Occupations: The majority of signatories were farmers or urban artisans. Less than 10% were women.
Political allegience: While we can assume than many of the signatories were political sympathisers, or moderate nationalists, a sizable proportion (over 10%) were clearly opposed to any form of nationalism. For example, the entire membership of the Orange Institution of Dublin signed the petition.

In short, there is no other source quite like this available in print or in electronic format.

Return to William Smith O'Brien page