What were the Loan Funds?
The Loan Funds were institutions that provided credit to the poor. Each
operated in a small geographical area, typically covering a parish. The loans granted
were for a small amount and for short duration and were given to fund capital
projects such as the purchase of livestock.
Security for the loan was provided by two other individuals whose names are given in the loan records.
When did they operate?
The first Loan Fund was set up by Dean Jonathan Swift in Dublin in the 1720s.
The number of Loan Funds increased rapidly in the years before the Great Famine,
when it is estimated that up to 20% of the Irish population were receiving credit from these funds.
The Famine decimated the Loan Funds and none survived in the Skibbereen area.
However, elsewhere some Loan Funds survived into the 20th century.
Why are they important?
Some Loan Fund records survive. The surviving records are often the only record we have of the ‘ordinary people’ of the pre-Famine era.
Even more importantly, in the early 1850s, the government initiated
follow up reports on the activities of some of the Loan Funds. These follow up
reports record the impact of the Famine on the poorer sections of society. They
are often the only official records that detail who died during the Famine and
who emigrated in its immediate aftermath.
What do the records contain?
There are two types of records: Loan records and Follow-Up records.
The Loan records
detail the date and amount of the loan. They also
recorded the name and townland of the borrower. The borrower was required to
have two guarantors or sureties. The names and townland of those who acted
as guarantors were
The Follow-Up records
give the name and townland of the individual and
the dates of any associated loans. The inspector, usually a local police
constable, was then required to obtain three pieces of information on the
individual - if individual resided in the townland on the date the loan was
given; what was then the condition of the individual and what is currently the
condition of the individual. A typical return read: "He resided there, he was then a small
farmer and he has since gone to America.
How do I search the records?
You can search the database by visiting the Search Page
. The following search form
To run a search you must enter either a First Name or Last Name or a Fund
name and press the
"Search" button. Wildcard characters: * for multiple characters and ? for a
single character are allowed. The search boxes are not case sensitive.
You can also filter your search to an individual Loan Fund by choosing a fund
from the "Fund" drop down list.
Where matches are found the results are grouped by the role of the individual
i.e. either Borrower, Surety (Guarantor) or Follow Up. The number of records of
each role is also displayed. Below is the result for a search on the name "Denis
To view the details associated with the individual and the role click on the
"View" link on the right of the record. The follow is the result of clicking on
the "View" link of Denis Murphy, Borrower.
To return to the full search results click on the "Back to Search Results"
The "Reset" button clears all the fields on the search page and allows you start
a new search from fresh.
What does "Use Sounds Like" checkbox do?
Clicking this checkbox brings back extra results for your search. As well as
the entered Last Name the results will also include names that have the same
phonetic sound as the entered value. Also our "Sounds Like" has been especially
developed for Irish surnames. In the 19th century the O' and Mc were often
dropped from start of Irish names. By clicking on the "Use Sounds Like"
returned for a name regardless whether the O' or Mc were used. For example a
search for the surname O'Driscoll with the "Use Sounds Like" will return results
for O'Driscoll and Driscoll plus names that are phonetically close to O'Driscoll.
I want to find out more about the Loan Funds, what do I do?
The surviving records of the Irish Loan Fund are in the British National Archive
in Kew, London. Strangely, given their importance and the fact the records have
survived the Irish Loan Funds have been largely ignored by Irish scholars.
However two Canadian academics; Arthur Sweetman and Aidan Hollis, have published
a number of papers on the Loan Funds. An internet search for "Irish Loan Funds"
will provide links to their work.
I have encountered an error what do I do?
We have tested this website, however errors may still occur. If you have a
problem please inform the Skibbereen Heritage Centre of your issue via email by