Wood's Guide to Public Record Office of Ireland
The year 1919 saw the publication of a notable archival work, Herbert Wood’s
Guide to the Records Deposited in the Public Record Office of Ireland. Nearly all
the records in the Public Record Office of Ireland (PROI) would be destroyed a mere
three years later in 1922, so that the Guide is essential to understanding what was lost
in 1922 and what may be reconstituted.
Herbert Wood was born in London in 1860 and graduated from Oxford University
in 1883. In 1884 he joined the staff of the PROI in Dublin and rose to the position of
Deputy Keeper in 1921. Wood was assigned the task of compiling a guide to the PROI and
after delay caused by World War I, saw it published in 1919. Wood’s Guide summarises
the holdings of the PROI under the headings of court, parliamentary, state, ecclesiastical,
testamentary, jurisdictional, commission and miscellaneous records, including the census
returns of 1821-51.
In June 1922 most of the contents of the PROI were destroyed in the Four Courts
complex during the Irish Civil War. Although he resigned as Deputy Keeper in
1923, Wood maintained his interest in Irish public records and sought to help in the
work of archival reconstruction, identifying transcripts, published material and
substitutes. This work continues today,greatly assisted by the development of
digitisation and the Internet. Wood died in Bath in 1955 and despite the tragedy of 1922
ranks as one of Ireland’s foremost archivists. Wood's Guide is now republished here with biographical details of the author and an analytical preface.