A petition in appreciation of the English Lord Morpeth, George Howard, the chief secretary of Ireland, in 1841, could act as a pre-Famine census substitute.
Terry Dooley, from the Department of History at the National University of Ireland, Maynooth, told BreakingNews.ie, the document could potentially provide an insight into the life, society and politics in pre-Famine Ireland.
The scroll in support of Lord Morpeth was signed by aristocrats, merchants, traders, clergy and ordinary people on the departure of Lord Morpeth, from his position as chief secretary of Ireland.
Dooley said “The Morpeth Roll has significant research potential, whether examined as a pre-Famine census substitute, a genealogy resource, a family heirloom or a politically motivated document.
“Our campaign will unlock the stories of the signatories and what happened to them through, and after, the Famine.”
The historian explained “The petition was a way of thanking Lord Morpeth.
“The Whig party was still popular in Ireland at least up until 1841, and by the time he left there were various associations for reform in Ireland and support for Catholic rights.”
Signatories on the list include Daniel O’Connell, Thomas Davis and Charles Gavan Duffy however it has been estimated that 91 percent of those who signed the scroll are unknown.
“The majority of signatories were of some sort of local profile. I’m from south Monaghan for example and there are a few names that I recognized immediately,” Dooley said.
A digitized version of the petition will be available on Ancestry.com to allow descendants, historians, librarians, genealogy enthusiasts, and societies to search for names.
New St. Patrick’s Day the scroll will go on display at NUI Maynooth, before going on tour to Farmleigh House in Dublin, Derrynane in Kerry, Kilkenny, Clonmel and Belfast.
The scroll is made up of 652 sheets of paper glued to linen to make a 412 meter long petition, rolled on a mahogany spool. This equates to three times the length of the Croke Park stadium, in Dublin.
It was held by Morpeth’s family in a basement at Castle Howard, in Yorkshire, for over a century.
Lord Morpeth, the eldest son of the 6th Earl of Carlisle, was well regarded for his work getting important legislation through parliament including the 1823 Tithe Act which allowed tax to be paid on income and not agricultural yield, and the poor laws. As a Whig supporter, he opposed religious discrimination.