Letters & diaries

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Letters - Handwritten

Letter from Isaac Butt to [Michael] Davitt, 25 February 1876. Archives Service, Donegal County Council

Note from Maria Edgeworth to Miss Powell, Edgeworthstown, 18 February 1847. Archival Code: P1/17 Longford County Archives Service

Letter from Oliver Plunkett to the Superior General of the Jesuits 1654. Archival Code: MSS17-18 Pontifical Irish College, Rome

Letter from Rev Daniel Delany to Rev Thady Duane, Queen's County, 1873. Delany Archive

Letters - Typed

Barton Collection - De Valera's letter, 1933. Wicklow County Archives

John Redmond Letter. Archival Code: SH11/58/2 Christian Brothers Archives - St Helen's Provence

Mary Shackleton's correpondence. Archival Code: SH11/58/2 Kildare County Archives

Letters are a great source of evidence for researchers. Prior to the introduction of the telephone, e-mail and other forms of speedy communication, letters were the means by which people kept in contact. Letters were businesslike messages between colleagues, requests for assistance from tenants to landlords, accounts of local and national events, detailed missives on the minutiae of daily lives and loving contacts between friends and family members. With the spread of literacy came an increase in the numbers of people who sent and received correspondence.

The postal service also played an important role in the development of letter writing. In January 1840 the Penny Post was introduced and increased the volume of letters considerably. Until the early twentieth century, when typewriters began to be used, letters were handwritten and you may have difficulties on some occasions with the various styles of handwriting when reading old letters.


James's Street Community and Schools Dublin. Archival Code: G5L05/1 Christian Brothers Archives – St Helen's

Diary of Penella Lenigan, 1847. The Allen Library

Diaries come in a variety of formats but they are usually handwritten by individuals into small bound volumes. In some cases they record daily appointments and no further information but in other cases they record detailed accounts of the thoughts, observations and the ideas of the individual who wrote in them. Diaries are a great source of information to researchers - even if they record only the day-to-day appointments of an individual this can still provide detailed evidence of what life was like on a daily basis for a person from the past.

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