Historic agreements between publicans and whiskey producers reveal ‘vanished Ireland’
Life & Style

Historic agreements between publicans and whiskey producers reveal ‘vanished Ireland’

A SET of historic agreements made between publicans across Ireland and the producers of Jameson whiskey have been made available publicly for the first time.

The documents, which belong to the Irish Distillers whiskey producer, have been released in a joint project with Ancestry, a global leader in family history research.

More than fifty years of historical Jameson publicans’ agreements have been released into the public domain, where they are available to search for free on Ancestry.ie until April 30.

The Publican Agreements, which comprise of 37 digitised volumes, each containing approximately 1,500 individual contracts, are legal agreements between John Jameson & Son and publicans who bought whiskey in bulk in Ireland in the first half of the 20th century.

Traditionally, Jameson had two routes to market - one was to bottle in-house and sell directly to the consumer, while the second was to sell by the barrel to publicans.

With the latter, labels were supplied to the individual publicans by the Bow Steet Distillery and publicans would bottle the whiskey in-house and add their name to the label.

To ensure that the whiskey was not tampered with in any way, publicans were required to sign an annual legal agreement which had to be witnessed, and often signed, by a customer on the premises.

The records contain the name and address of every publican who purchased Jameson in bulk at that time in addition to the name and occupation of witnesses, thus providing a unique insight into the role of the Irish pub in the community at that time.

The records belong to Irish Distillers but the digitisation project with Ancestry makes them accessible to the public for the first time and provides a valuable tool to support genealogical mapping.

Carol Quinn, Head of Archives at Irish Distillers pictured with newly published historical agreements between Jameson and Irish publicans from the first half of the 20th century

Carol Quinn, Head of Archives at Irish Distillers, said: “We are incredibly proud to once again partner with Ancestry to publish another set of important historical records from our archive.

“For centuries, the Irish public house has been an integral part of Irish social culture – a place in the centre of the community in which to meet and socialise.

“Through the digitisation of these records, we have created a unique information source that can be used to document the Irish pub in its heyday.

“We now understand that there has been a serious decline in the number of pubs in Ireland which is why these records are even more important as they provide a socio-economic history of a vanished Ireland.”

“The records, which cover every county in Ireland, are fantastic for genealogy purposes because in addition to the publican details, you have the details of the witnesses and given the role of the pub at this time, this could have been anyone from within the local community – a local farmer, doctor a chemist’s assistant and even a harness maker pops up! There’s a broad range of witness occupations listed within the records, and all of these are now available to search online on Ancestry.ie,” added Quinn.

Rhona Murray, Senior Content Acquisition Manager at Ancestry, said: “The Publican Agreements are expected to be extremely beneficial to Irish people or those who have Irish roots and want to find out more about their family history.

“The Agreements include the names and addresses of publicans in business with Jameson, shining a light on a niche group of people who were pillars of their communities.

“Being able to link an ancestor to a prominent Irish brand like Jameson could add colour to your family tree, beyond birth, marriage, and death records.

“We are delighted to be providing a free access period to help people make those personal discoveries.”

Irish Distillers and Ancestry first partnered in 2021 to publish more than one million Jameson employee records containing detailed weekly wages books with employee names, as well as occupation, hours worked, and wages paid, spanning over 100 years from 1862 to 1969.

The collection has been viewed thousands of times since it was launched on Ancestry.

To access the records click here.