What do Bono, Graham Norton and Dermot Kennedy all have in common? Apart from being three of Ireland’s most famous sons, they all share a family history at Guinness. A family history safeguarded in the Guinness Archive at the Guinness Storehouse.
The Guinness Archive preserves over 25,000 personnel files of former employees spanning the 1880s to the 2000s. The collection is a fantastic resource for people looking to discover their family history. The records are particularly valuable in the context of Irish genealogy and the burning of the Public Record Office during the Battle of the Four Courts in 1922, marking the start of Ireland’s Civil War. Read more about the loss and attempted reconstruction at the Virtual Record Treasury of Ireland.
The Guinness Archive is currently the only corporate archive in Ireland open to the public. We are delighted to make the files of past employees available to direct relatives only. The employee files at Guinness are packed with information, including important dates, addresses, spouse information, children, medical history, and more. The records paint a rich tapestry of life at the Guinness brewery and of 19th and 20th century Dublin.
Most of our personnel files relate to the Labourers of St. James’s Gate. Labourers usually entered the Guinness workforce at 14, beginning their careers as messengers, lab assistants or boy labourers. They remained on the ‘Boys List’ until they reached the age of 18. Competition to get a job at the Brewery was stiff! Applicants had to provide a reference from their school, proof of their age, pass a medical examination before sitting a final written examination.
It was common for messengers who were successful in securing employment to remain in the Company until their retirement at the age of 65.
The competition to work at Guinness was motivated in part by the benefits that came with being a brewery employee. Perks included subsidised meals, free medical care, holiday days, bonuses, pensions, and a free pint of Guinness per day to employees over the age of 21. It was said that Guinness would look after you from ‘womb to tomb’ as burial allowances were provided by the Company and, at one point, there was a midwife on staff to assist with childbirth.
Pensions would transfer to widows in the event of the death of a pensioner and to wives of employees in cases where they passed away during their employment. The files in these cases are a valuable resource of genealogical information for women in Ireland, who were not generally reflected in national records as they were primarily engaged in domestic work. The Guinness Archive also holds files for women employed by the company in their own right. Women were employed as clerks or as cleaners and attendants to supplement their income following widowhood.
The genealogy service at the Guinness Archive is complimentary. Search our online database of past employees or contact us via our online form, https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en/discover/find-your-family.
The National Archives of Ireland and the National Library of Ireland both provide free genealogy services to those interested in researching their family history. Catholic parish registers detailing baptisms and marriages on the island of Ireland have been digitised and are available online through the National Library at https://registers.nli.ie/about.