Fonds OBHPA - Records of Offaly Board of Health and Public Assistance

Sanitorium and TB Hospital Records (1912-28; 1949-57) Minutes of the Tuberculosis Committee (1921-1935) Minute Books (1925-1942) County Home Records Indoor Registers (1914-1948) Indoor Assistance Lists (1924-1948) Indoor Admission and Discharge Books (1939-1954) Hospital Registers and Statistical Records (1933-1957) County Hospital Records Admission and Discharge Books (1932-42)
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Records of Offaly Board of Health and Public Assistance


  • (1912-21); 1924-42; (1943-65) (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

52 boxes
15 out-sized volumes

Context area

Name of creator

(1898 - present)

Administrative history

King's County Council was formed under the Local Government (Ireland) Act, 1898. At the annual meeting of 19 June 1920, a proposal was put forward to change the name of King's County Council to that of Offaly County Council, with all printed matter in connection with the Council to bear the new title from that date.

Name of creator


Administrative history

Boards of public health and assistance were formally set up in 1924 under the provisions of the Local Government (Temporary Provisions), Act, 1923. However, the process of setting up the boards of health and public assistance was initiated during the War of Independence when local government in the form of county councils nationwide, ceded political control to republicans in the 1920 local elections. Declaring the abolition of the English poor law system and its workhouses as a major policy objective, the newly elected councils proceeded to wind down the boards of guardians who oversaw the administration of poor law by the end of 1921. In the interim period before the establishment of the Free State and the passing of the 1923 enabling legislation, a process known as ‘Amalgamation’ took place, which attempted to reduce the number of institutions in each county on the grounds of economy and efficiency.

In Offaly, the semi-independent King’s County Infirmary was closed in 1921. The three workhouses in Tullamore, Edenderry, and Birr, were also closed in 1921, the building in Tullamore being repurposed into a county home to accommodate the aged and infirm, the destitute poor, invalids, and unmarried mothers and their children. It also provided maternity services. The old workhouse infirmary was repurposed into the county hospital for medical and surgical services transferred from the closed King’s County Infirmary. There was a separate fever hospital on the same site. In Edenderry, a district hospital was established in the old fever hospital attached to the former workhouse. In Birr, the workhouse infirmary was used as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, and the district hospital for the Birr area was in the old fever hospital. In the 1930s, Hospital Sweepstakes money funded the construction of a new county hospital at Tullamore and further improvements to the local hospital network.

The responsibilities of the boards of health and public assistance were wide ranging and included poor relief, administration of hospitals and homes, services to the sick poor, maternity services, and services to unmarried mothers. They also had responsibility for public health, sanitation, disease control, water supply, and certain services formerly carried out by the rural district councils, which were dissolved in 1925.

The board was a charge on the county and board members, who had executive functions, were appointed by the county council. A series of legislative changes changed the role and function of the board. In 1942, the enactment of the Public Assistance Act, 1939 formerly replaced the poor relief acts of the nineteenth century, and combined central control exercised by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, with local administration. At this point, the board came fully under the control of the county council and the executive functions transferred to the County Manager.

The Health Act, 1947 made county councils health authorities in their own areas. The Health Act, 1953 transferred hospitals and institutions to health authorities, thereby separating public assistance from the treatment of the sick. The Health Act, 1970 set up eight regional health boards, transferring health services from county councils, Offaly falling under the jurisdiction of the Midland Health Board. The Social Welfare (Supplementary Welfare Allowances) Act, 1975 transferred the administration of public assistance to the health boards, which were set up in 1970. This completed the transfer of responsibilities in the area of public health and public assistance from local authorities to central government.

Archival history

Content and structure area

Scope and content

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.

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.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

This set of records was originally listed in the book 'Grand Jury Rooms to Aras an Chontae: local government in Offaly' published by Offaly County Council in 2003. This online finding aid supersedes the arrangement and coding in the 2003 catalogue. Previous reference codes will be visible in the new descriptions. The new arrangement is in ten series:

Series 1: Tuberculosis Scheme (1912-1957)
Although predating the Board of Health, the earliest set of records in this collection dating from 1912 are in the form of registers of patients being treated for tuberculosis. Following the foundation of the Irish Free State, committees were renamed, and administration of Offaly Board of Health tuberculosis records was maintained by the Hospital and Dispensaries Committee, although format and chronology of record-keeping was unaltered.

Series 2: Hospital and Homes Committee (1922-1924)
Minutes of a transitional committee to oversee the closure of the workhouses and the abolition of the Poor Law Union structure, while setting up the proposed county board of health.

Series 3: Public Assistance (1924-1942)
This series is further divided into four subseries, representing categories of records created to administer public assistance such as Minute Books (1924-1942) which record executive decisions on matters of public assistance; Assistance Officers Expenditure Books (1933-1939); Home Assistance Officer Application Report Books (1935-1940); and Old Age Pension Registers (1941-1953)

Series 4: Public Health (1925-1942)
Minutes books and abstracts of minutes relating to decisions in the administration of public health for the period 1925-1942

Series 5: County Home (1914-1957)
Several subseries of registers recording the admission and discharge of individuals to the county home in the period 1914-1957. The earliest register in this series was opened in 1914, and can also be viewed as the last register for the Tullamore Workhouse, which closed in 1921.

Series 6: County Hospital (1919-1950)
Several subseries of registers of admissions and discharges to the county hospital for the period 1932-1948, and also includes medical reports and prescriptions from the period 1919-1950.

Series 7: Fever Hospital (1937-1957)
Registers of admissions and discharges to the fever hospital for the period 1937-1957.

Series 8: Death Registers (1913-1947)
Registers, slightly overlapping between the years 1932 and 1943, of deaths recorded as having taken place in the workhouse (1913-1921), the county home (1922-1947), and the hospitals (1932-1943) under the care of firstly Tullamore Poor Law Union and immediately succeeded by Offaly Board of Health and Public Assistance.

Series 9: Annual Reports (1929; 1945-1954)
Series of annual reports with many gaps, compiled by the County Medical Officer of Health.

Series 10: Accounts and Financial Statements (1922-1965)
A large and varied series of account books and financial statements, broadly reflecting the financial management of the Board of Health for the period 1922-1965. Includes abstracts of accounts, auditors statements, inventories of stock, travel expenses, and other records of daily cash transactions.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

BIRTH AND EARLY LIFE INFORMATION: Access to birth and early life information is changing. The Birth Information and Tracing Act (2022) provides a full and clear right of access to birth certificates, birth and early life information for all persons who were adopted, boarded out, the subject of an illegal birth registration or who otherwise have questions in relation to their origins. It also allows for access to information by next of kin in certain circumstances. Please visit for further information and application forms.

GENERAL: due to the sensitive nature of the records in this collection, many of which are 'living records' in that they contain personal and private details of living individuals, general access to this set of records is by application. Please see the pdf 'Access Policy' and the accompanying application form, which is available by clicking on the pdf icon at the top of this page.

Conditions governing reproduction

Reproduction is generally not permitted due to the vast quantity of unrelated third-party data on any one page of a register or a minute book. Redacted copies may be provided in certain circumstances. Please see 'Access Policy' for more information.

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

On occasion, the original language used by the record-creators is reproduced within the descriptive catalogue. Such language may be deemed offensive by today's standards. It is not intended to cause offence or distress, but is used to demonstrate the language, and therefore the thinking, of the time. Language used in this manner in narrative formats such as minutes will be shown in quotation marks to denote its historical context. Language used in titles or in registers will be reproduced as they were created.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

The records were created for administrative purposes only and the format, scope and content of the records exist insofar as they met the record-keeping requirements of the day.

There are no individual case files of persons admitted or discharged to either the county home or the county hospital. There are no specific registers of unmarried mothers or boarded-out children. These details are noted amongst hundreds of other registrations to either the county home or the county hospital in physically large ‘combined’ registers.

It may be difficult to locate an individual in the registers without exact dates, and without such details, the search in un-indexed registers may take a significant amount of time.

It may be difficult to search these registers without assistance or a familiarity with these record types. The archivist will provide assistance to users of these records and can undertake the search in the records and extract the relevant information for the individual as per the application process outlined in the Access Policy.

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

The following registers of boarded out children, originally created by Offaly Board of Health and Public Assistance, are now held by Túsla Child and Family Agency:

  1. Offaly County Board of Health Register of Children at Nurse (1921-1986)
  2. Offaly County Board of Health Nurse Children Register (1936-1962)

The following files in relation to boarded-out children in Offaly are held by the Department of Health and the Department of Children, Equality. Disability, Integration, and Youth:

RM-INA-0-489220: Ms Clandillon's Notebooks - Notebook No. 33 – Offaly
RM-INA-0-489214: Ms Clandillon's Notebooks - Notebook No. 34 – Offaly
RM-ARC-0-489423: Child care legislation unit 22.3.26 Ms Clandillon Papers-Reports on boarded out children Offaly - Various 1961-1980
RM-INA-0-489849: Ms Clandillon Papers / Reports on boarded out children – Offaly 1944-1972
RM-ARC-0-489721: Ms Clandillon Papers / Reports on boarded out children - Offaly Various 1973-1979
INACT-INA-0-457782 Offaly: Children and Unmarried Mothers in Institutions, Inspectors Report.
INACT-INA-0-427443: County Offaly: Registration of Maternity Homes Act 1934, Reports, Registrations and Cancellations
INACT-INA-0-457779 Offaly: Boarded Out Children, Returns.
INACT-INA-0-457780 Offaly: Boarded Out Children, Inspector's Reports.
INACT-INA-0-457781 Offaly: Boarded Out Children, General.
INACT-INA-0-457783 Offaly: Children in Foster Homes, Returns.
INACT-INA-0-457810 Offaly: Half yearly returns of Children Maintained in approved institutions under Section 55, Health Act 1953

Records containing information on unmarried mothers from Offaly who gave birth in Sean Ross Abbey, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary and Manor Home, Castlepollard, Co. Westmeath, are held by Tusla Child and Family Agency.

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Links to related archival collections in this repository are listed below. The poor law unions were predecessor bodies to Offaly Board of Health and Public Assistance and its operations. Likewise the functions of the short-lived rural district councils (1899-1925) in the area of public health were subsumed into the county board of health following their dissolution. The physical infrastructure for the county home and hospital was inherited from Tullamore Union's workhouse buildings.

In 1942, executive functions of the county board of health were transferred to the county council, and decisions relating to, for example, boarded-out children, may be found in the series of Manager's Orders in the county council's records from that date.

Publication note

Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration, and Youth (January 2021), 'Final Report of the Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes'.

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Published catalogue 'Grand Jury Rooms to Áras an Chontae' (2003)


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Rules and/or conventions used

ISAD (G), 2nd ed. International Council on Archives

Dates of creation revision deletion

Lisa Shortall, February 2022




Archivist's note

This finding aid was published in February 2022, by Lisa Shortall, Archivist, as part of Offaly County Council's response to the Final Report of the Commission of Investigation (Mother and Baby Homes and certain related matters).

Archivist's note

Amended March 2022 to add further information on registers of boarded-out children held by Tusla Child and Family Agency (see Allied Materials).

Archivist's note

Revised July 2022 to include details of the Birth Information and Tracing Act.

Archivist's note

Details of the HSE's National Counselling Service, which is free to former residents of Mother and Baby Homes, can be accessed here:

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