This is a large set of records which broadly reflects the evolution of local authority health and welfare provision in Offaly. It contains minutes of committees established to oversee public health and public assistance, as well as administrative records detailing the admission and discharge of individuals into the County Home or the County Hospital. While the bulk of the records derived from the County Board of Health, there are a few outlying records from 1912-21 relating to transitional periods in the health service, or where registers were taken over from the preceding health system and incorporated into the new Board of Health. Likewise some county home and county hospital administrative records, particularly admission and discharge registers and financial ledgers which were kept by record-creators in an unbroken series, post-date the County Board of Health's executive function which ceased in 1942.
RECORDS RELATING TO MOTHER AND BABY HOMES AND BOARDED-OUT CHILDREN:
The main series of records which record unmarried mothers and/or decisions relating to the boarding-out of children are to be found in the Public Assistance Minute Books (Series 3) and the Admissions and Discharge registers for the County Home (Series 5).
While Offaly did not have a designated ‘Mother and Baby Home,’ the records show that unmarried mothers were regularly admitted to the County Home to give birth until the late 1940s, many staying for a significant period of time in the home with their children. In some instances, both mother and child were transferred from the home after the birth to other institutions such as Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, or Manor Home, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath.
From the late 1940s, it appears that unmarried mothers were either admitted directly to institutions in other counties (these records are held by other bodies) or transferred from the County Home to mother and baby homes outside Offaly before or after giving birth (these instances, which are infrequent from the late 1940s are recorded in the county home registers in this collection). Children entered in the registers of the county home are recorded as having been born there, or have been transferred into the county home from another institution before being 'placed' or 'boarded-out' in Offaly. It is possible to trace children by surname, noting the limitations of the records in terms of completeness and the date span.
In general terms and from an overview of the records, the incidence of names of unmarried mothers and their children decreases significantly over time. This is most likely due to unmarried mothers from Offaly entering institutions outside the county before the birth of their children. By the 1950s, there are only sporadic instances of births to unmarried mothers and of 'boarded-out' children recorded in the county home registers. This particular record series ends in 1957.