Introduction to Query Books of Spring & Summer Assizes


Series of query books of spring & summer assizes whereupon the Grand Juries met twice yearly for the purpose of passing presentments (proposals for works).  Individual contractors had to tender for repair work on a section of road which the County Surveyor advertised in the local press.  The query books contain a list of proposed and approved works financed by the cess payer on roads and public buildings, orders provided at the assizes, the county surveyors' report and expenditure on roads, applotments (valuation of baronies), abstract of accounts of the County Infirmary and County Prison, an account of the receipts and expenditure of Carlingford Harbour, the county treasurer's statement of account, names and details of salaries paid to the Grand Jury and other county officers such as the county surveyor, surveyors assistants, county treasurer, clerk of the peace, various gaol, court and infirmary staff, in addition to expenditure on the running of the gaol, court, and infirmary.  Included at the start of many assizes is a list of the Grand Jurors. Some books record constables. The query books are not indexed and works are arranged under county-at-large, then barony by barony (Ardee, Drogheda (from 1844, GJ/005/009, parishes Ballymakenny & St Peter’s), Dundalk Upper, Dundalk Lower, Ferrard, and Louth). 

Archival Importance:

The Query Books are one of the principal records of the county administration prior to 1898.  They are a valuable resource as they illustrate the beginning of the county infrastructure, as it exists today: many of the roads, bridges and piers still in use today were originally built under the Grand Jury.  Useful genealogical information can be obtained by detailed searching of them as they contain many local names, for example, ‘£1.10.0 To John Long, contractor, for keeping in repair and cleaning 21 perches of a river and gullet on the road from Carlingford to the sea at Templetown, between Thomas Mackin’s house in Irish Grange and Edward Connell's in same; securities, John Flanagan and Felix Murphy—No. 14,...’ (GJ/005/013, p97) or '£9 to be paid to James Hoey, contractor, for making a paved water channel on the road from Kells to Ardee, between Stoney-lane bridge and the chapel of Ardee; securities Patrick Norris and Thomas Hoey' (GJ/005/014, p40). The references to residences and landmarks such as bridges or turnpikes are another valuable aspect of these records.

The books are an invaluable research tool for historians to exploit, as they cover the bulk of the nineteenth century and detail work carried out under the famine relief schemes.  During the Great Famine of 1845, local Relief Committees were set up to give employment to the poor. Public works schemes such as the building of roads, piers and walls were set up to keep the able-bodied poor from having to enter the workhouse and becoming a financial burden on the district. Information on social and economic conditions of the time can be gleaned from the various accounts, eg ‘Amount of this County’s proportion of the expense of maintaining 20 patients in the Richmond District Lunatic Asylum, from the 25th of May 1851, to the 24th December, 1851 ...£180.8.5’ (GJ/005/013, p25).

For background information on the Grand Jury, see Grand Jury collection