Petty Sessions

I was out and about this week and stopped off to pick up groceries in a small town about 20km from where I live. Ireland is amazing for lots of reasons but this one in particular. Things can pop up when you least expect it… such as this !

Court of Petty Sessions Rathcoole Co Dublin
Court of Petty Sessions Rathcoole, Co Dublin

I had never seen one of these in the flesh before and I literally just stumbled across it on the Main Street in Rathcoole. The building still stands perfectly and although Petty Sessions don’t exist anymore, the building has been repurposed as a Community Centre.

The Court of Petty Sessions were held to prosecute minor offences so if you want to find out if your ancestor ever had a brush with the law, the Petty Session records on the FindMyPast are amazing… all 22 million of them.

I have found lots of records in the Petty Session Registers for my own family and the families of clients over the years. I do my best to only post records of my own family so here are a few examples of what you might find. Today we might consider these really ‘petty’ crimes… so you could say that the name awarded is perfect.

Petty Sessions Order Book
Petty Sessions Order Book

Story appears to be as follows; 
Patrick Whelan (my maternal great great grandfather) is making a complaint about a person called Daniel Harris of Enniscorthy who was found wandering abroad and begging on the public street on the 11th January 1890.  Daniel was 8 years of age and a Roman Catholic.  The outcome appears to be that the defendant i.e. Daniel be detained at  Danesfort Industrial School in County Cork until 26th January 1898.

Petty Sessions Order Book
Petty Sessions Order Book

Story appears to be as follows; 
The same Patrick Whelan (states Publican and Farmer) – appears to be making a complaint about a person called Thomas Perry or Bary, Chimney Sweep of Edwards Lane, Enniscorthy.  Apparently, the defendant i.e. Thomas… on 19th August 1890 did allow his two goats trespass on to the complainants oats when growing.
Appears to be no attendance by either Patrick Whelan or Thomas

In this example. another maternal great great grandfather Terence Gorman (not sure if this is my great great great grandfather who is also Terence Gorman of his son Terence) of Balgriffin / Belcamp in Co Dublin is up in front of the judge.
It states that… Terence Gorman was driving 2 horses and carts on the wrong side of the public road at Balgriffin on 22nd December 1868. The fine awarded is marked as ‘paid.
I love this example and I like to think he went out with the lads for a few Christmas drinks and got caught on the way home.

Petty Sessions Order Book
Petty Sessions Order Book

In the first image above, it shows my maternal great great grandmother Jane Gorman (née Dowling) in front of the court on the 24th November 1873. She appears to have been fined for having a unjust beam and scales at her shop at Belcamp on the 12th Nov.

The second image appears to show that she didn’t take heed of the first warning and was up to her old tricks again. It states that on the 5th June 1875, that she was fined again for….having one unjust scales in her place of business at the Cock & Rabbit on the 23rd .

As you can see from these few examples, the Petty Sessions are a treasure trove of information about our ancestors. And this is just a short selection of ones from my family. I have to say… my maternal ancestors seem to be ‘known to the authorities’ more so than my paternal side.

If you don’t have access to FindMyPast to check these records, check with your local or municipal library as they often have access for free on the computers on their premises.

Warm wishes


Related Post