Historical records

Guide to business collections

Does the National Archives hold business collections?

The National Archives holds records from a large number of private businesses, including small family grocers, solicitors, trade unions and major industry.

Is the National Archives legally obligated to collect business archives?

No. The National Archives Act, 1986 does not specifically refer to business records and so the National Archives does not have any legal obligation to house these collections.

Why are some business collections held by the National Archives?

The National Archives recognises the historical significance of business archives to the social, political and economic history of Ireland. Although business records are not specifically mentioned in the National Archives Act, 1986, the Act does permit the accessioning of private collections that warrant long-term preservation. This has built upon the long-standing tradition of the Public Record Office of Ireland to acquire and preserve collections from private sources.

What is the Business Records Survey?

The Business Records Survey was established in the 1970s by the Irish Manuscripts Commission to survey the archives of both small and large businesses and to acquire these archives to ensure their long-term preservation.

Can I visit the National Archives to view business collections?

Yes. Business collections are private collections but access is granted in the vast majority of cases, unless stipulated by the donor or where collections remain unprocessed. Business records are stored in off-site storage and will not be available until the following working day if requested in person, or three working days if requested by email. Further information is available in Ordering Archives in Advance.

Why are these collections useful?

These collections provide a unique insight into the social history of Ireland, mainly throughout the 19th and early 20th century. They often include individuals that may not appear in other official records and provide a perspective that is not necessarily derived from official government policy.

What collections are held in the National Archives?

The Business Records Survey has collected hundreds of collections over the years. These archival collections are arranged on a county by county basis and hard copy finding aids are available in the Reading Room of the National Archives.

Can I search these collections online?

No. Access to the finding aids is not currently available in the online catalogue. Researchers must present themselves in the Reading Room to view the finding aids.

How do I know before I visit if you hold the collection I am interested in?

If you are unsure or have a query about business records held in the National Archives please email query@nationalarchives.ie.

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