Summonister court records

The office of ‘Summonister and Clerk of Estreats, in the Court of Exchequer of Ireland’ was in existence from at least the reign of James I as we have reference to the appointment of Edmund Beaghan to the post on 3 September 1618. The summonister rolls were copies of fines imposed and recognizance’s forfeited at Assizes, Quarter Sessions and in the King’s courts. The rolls record, among other things, the names of people fined for non-attendance at quarter sessions, that is, the courts that dealt with less serious crimes similar to today’s civil courts. Names and residences are recorded. The original rolls were lost in the destruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1922 but copies of some exist because of the work of the genealogist Tenison Groves.

The surviving transcript for counties L'Derry and Tyrone appear to be fairly intact apart from a lengthy interval from 1641-1653, which reflects the impact of the Irish uprising upon administration. The rolls are a useful source of surnames containing as they do, hundreds of names of those English, Scottish and Irish who came to the attention of the courts. The rolls provide a local window through which we can view life in seventeenth century in north west Ulster. They provide a fascinating insight into the economic, social and political workings of local government in the early plantation period. These provide the names and residences of hundreds of individuals including many local Gaelic families as well as the new colonists from Scotland and England. The use of townland and parish names is frequent in the records and a valuable source of information for the local historian as well as the family historian.

In date order the summonister records in PRONI are as follows:

Counties Cavan, Londonderry and Tyrone, 1610–24 – T/808/15131 
County Londonderry, 1611–69 – T/808/15130 
County Tyrone, 1615–38 – T/808/15090 
County Tyrone, c.1615–21 – T/808/15126 
County Tyrone, c.1618–38 – T/808/15120 
Counties Londonderry and Tyrone, c.1637–40 – T/808/15132 
Counties Londonderry and Tyrone, c.1640–70 – T/808/15133 
Counties Londonderry and Tyrone, 1656–62 – T/808/15134 
Counties Londonderry and Tyrone, 1623–38 – T/808/15135 
Counties not specified, c.1620–84 – T/808/15139

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