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Earlier this year, Findmypast released the Irish Poverty Relief Loans, 1821-1874. These are a fascinating resource for those discovering their Irish ancestry. The original records are held in Britain's National Archives at Kew, where they are known by their reference number T91.

There are numerous reasons why the Poverty Relief Loans will make an incredible addition to your family records. They record the names of thousands of people who are often missing or left out of official records. People in rural Ireland, especially before the 20th century, did not interact with officials on a regular basis as we do today. The counties included in the records are on Ireland's west coast, an area of the country which can be difficult for family historians to research.

Another reason these records are significant is the time period. The records document the names of your ancestors from 1821-1874. During this time Ireland saw the darkest period of its history, the Great Famine from 1845 to 1852. It was a period when the Irish people were devastated by starvation and disease. Millions perished or emigrated. Through these records you can discover how you ancestors endured during this dark time. The records track the borrowers recorded in them and whether they still resided in the town where the loan was taken, whether they were still alive or if they had emigrated to England or further to America.

So what exactly are the Poverty Relief Loans? They were part of the Irish Reproductive Loan Fund. The fund started in 1822 with surplus money from charitable donations which were collected to assist with a smaller famine which had occurred in Ireland. They were titled the reproductive loans because they focused on lending money for reproductive purposes. For example, a loan would have been made to a fisherman for new nets or a shed for curing fish or a farmer may borrow funds for new equipment or seeds. The loans were to be repaid within twelve months and had a low interest rate. All the loans required two guarantors or securities to co-sign. Often these guarantors were neighbors or close family members so by discovering your ancestor in the records you will also reveal names of family friends or relatives.

Once you’ve found your ancestor in these new records you can continue your family history journey by exploring the Griffith’s Valuation records to discover more about your ancestral land or the Irish Famine Immigrants records and find out if your ancestor was one of the thousands of Irish who left Ireland to begin a new life in the United States.

For more stories on tracing your Irish heritage from Findmypast click here.