There are five main categories of depositions
Dublin Original: depositions taken by a ‘Commission for the Despoiled Subject’ issued on 23 December 1641. Two subsequent commissions were issued on 18 January 1642 and 11 June 1642. (See MS 812, fols 1r-3v for copies of all three commissions) The Commissioners consisted of eight clergymen headed by Henry Jones.
Commissioners: Henry Jones Randall Adams John Watson William Aldrich John Sterne Henry Brereton Roger Puttock William Hitchcock Edward Piggott (in place of Puttock, who died after 26 May 1642): appointed on 11 June 1642
Thomas Waring served as clerk of the commission. The commissioners normally worked in twos, there were no set pairings and some depositions had more than two commissioners. The Dublin depositions generally follow a set form. They start with the name, address and status/occupation of the deponent. They then briefly state the circumstances in which the deponent was robbed, the value of goods lost, the name of those responsible, information they know about those in arms, murders or apostates and finally they recount any traitorous words they heard.
Waring Copies: a set of copies made by Thomas Waring between September 1645 and January 1646. Only about half of these survive. These are not exact copies. They tidy up the originals and omit redundancies. Inventories of losses are usually summarised in general categories with a total. In 1650 Waring published A BRIEF NARRATION OF THE PLOTTING, beginning & carrying on of that execrable rebellion and butcherie in Ireland (London, 1650). He also edited the original Bisse (Munster) depositions.
Bisse Depositions: supplementary commission issued on 5 March 1642 for depositions in Munster to be taken by Philip Bisse, archdeacon of Cloyne. He was to be assisted by ad-hoc commissioners, with Oliver Davorin as clerk. His principal assistant commissioners in Munster comprised eight local landowners, two clergymen, a merchant, an ironmonger and a tanner.
Bisse was killed in July 1643 in an encounter with rebels on the road between Cork and Youghal. The commission lapsed with his death and no depositions were taken after 9 July 1643.
The Bisse depositions generally follow a set form. The deponents name, address, status/occupation, nationality and religion and details of the commission. Nationality and religion are generally given as ‘brittish protestant’. This is followed by a list of losses and values, the names of those responsible, details of debtors (split between those in rebellion and those who have been impoverished by the rebellion). Details of other events and crimes, apostasy and words spoken by the rebels.
Inchiquin brought the Bisse depositions to England in February 1644. He left them in England on his return to Ireland. After the king’s execution, they came into the possession of the council of state and were given to Thomas Waring for safekeeping.
Waring edited the Bisse depositions for publication by crossing out redundant information in a similar manner to the Dublin copies. In these transcriptions the original text has been copied in full with the deleted passages crossed out.
Miscellaneous: collections of examinations taken before officials in the 1640s. Many of these are in the Dublin volume. Some have now been re-categorised.
Commonwealth: set of examinations taken by commissioners appointed in 1652 to gather evidence to prosecute those responsible for murders and massacres since 22 October 1641.
In September 1652 seventy commissioners were appointed by parliament, with any twelve of them to constitute a ‘high court of justice’. They were empowered to examine witnesses, try cases and impose punishment. Two of the original Dublin commissioners, Jones and Brereton, served on these courts. The conduct of examinations had already begun in some places during the summer, on the authority of justices of the peace. The collection of evidence ended in 1654.
A number of deponents gave multiple statements against different rebels.
There are also a number of sub categories that can be identified
- Title Pages: there is a title page at the start of each county and volume
- Index: some volumes have partial lists of rebels and their crimes within that volume
- Recognizance: when a deponent gives a bond or surety to appear in court
- A number of other categories only appear a few times. The title is usually self explanatory e.g. Copy of the Confederate oath, Letter