Historical Morpeth Roll is digitisedThursday 14 March 2013 19.23
One of Ireland's most extraordinary historic documents, the 420-metre long Morpeth Roll, has been digitised and is being made available online as part of a collaborative project between NUI Maynooth, Castle Howard in Yorkshire and Ancestry.com.
The unique testimonial document, on 652 pieces of paper, was signed by over 160,000 people across Ireland in 1841.
It was a parting gift for George Howard, the Lord Viscount Morpeth, when he left his post as Chief Secretary for Ireland.
It was a rare tribute to an English administrator, who was held in high regard in Ireland from all levels of society.
It read: "We assure Your Lordship that the warmest Good Wishes of our Country will ever Accompany You, in Your Future Progress through Life."
Some well-known figures who signed the roll included Daniel O' Connell, Charles Bianconi, Thomas Davis and Charles Gavan Duffy.
Genealogists have also discovered a connection to the British Royal Family from one of the signatories, Henry White from Booterstown in Dublin, a distant cousin of Prince William and Prince Harry.
The information contained within the roll is considered to be of huge significance because it predates the Great Famine of 1845 and because most of the Irish census records were destroyed in the civil war.
As such, this is one of the few primary resources available detailing people living in Ireland during the 1840s.
Discussing the Morpeth Roll campaign, Professor Philip Nolan, President of NUI Maynooth said: "The Morpeth Roll is one of Ireland's most significant historical and genealogical documents. It has major research potential, whether examined as a pre-Famine census substitute, a genealogy resource, a family heirloom or a politically significant document.
“Unlocking the stories behind the signatories provides a unique insight into Irish life, society and politics in pre-Famine Ireland and we are calling on historians, local genealogists and libraries to get involved in the project," he said.
Miriam Silverman, head of content from Ancestry.com, said "The dearth in Irish Census records means documents like the Morpeth Roll, which detail people's names and locations, can be used as a 'census substitute', helping millions find out more about their Irish ancestry."
The Morpeth Roll is about to embark on a 14-month tour of Ireland, from NUI Maynooth to Westport, Derrynane, Clonmel, Kilkenny, Belfast, Dublin and back to NUI Maynooth, and can be viewed by the public, either in person or online at www.ancestry.com, for the first time in 170 years.