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Findmypast’s Irish Petty Sessions Court Registers 1828-1912 includes Limerick City’s Children’s Court from the early part of the twentieth century, which exposes the petty crimes the county’s minors committed and how harshly they were punished.

The online records, part of a set of over twenty million, recount how a simple game of football on the street could lead to a child being hauled up in front of a magistrate. Youths risked fines, imprisonment, or detention in an industrial school, if found wandering the streets or skiving from school.

It seems children did not have it easy growing up in Limerick in the early twentieth century. Things that we would consider a natural part of childhood today like sports and games were frowned upon and these records reveal how partaking in them could lead to harsh penalties. It truly was an era when children were expected to be seen and not heard!

Patrick O’Connell, aged 12, of Ellen Street was found guilty in August 1910 of ‘unlawfully and wilfully causing an obstruction in the public street by rolling hoops to the annoyance and danger of the residents’, his father, John, was ordered to pay 6d in fines and a further shilling in expenses.

The records date from 1909 to 1911, so if your ancestors were growing up in Limerick at that time, they’re certainly worth searching to see if one of them was unlucky enough to have had their day in court.

In what could have been a scene from Frank McCourt’s acclaimed novel and movie Angela’s Ashes, the records tell a particularly harrowing story from September 1911 when five siblings with the surname Scanlan, aged between six and twelve, found themselves being sent off to an industrial school after being found loitering without a guardian. The four Scanlan sisters were sent to St. George’s Girls Industrial School on Pennywell Road and their brother Maurice to St Joseph’s. But why would five children find themselves in such a predicament? A search of the 1911 census of Ireland shows that the children’s father Timothy, a pork butcher, was a widower. Searching Findmypast’s death index it was discovered that his wife, Martha, a dressmaker, had died in the spring of 1907. A further exploration of the Petty Sessions Court Registers revealed how Timothy must have struggled to care for five young children after the death of his wife. There are twenty more entries for Timothy in the court records; most are threats of eviction. It is unimaginable what the children had to go through after the death of their mother, the subsequent helplessness of their father and then internment to an industrial school.

Whether appalling, or amusing, your Limerick ancestor’s court story is waiting to be discovered online now at Findmypast.

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