Each record contains a transcript of the signature and an image of the petition heading they signed. The information given varies but you can find out the following about your ancestor:
Address (Usually street)
Each campaign district had the option of writing their own heading to the petition. Local headings often reflect local issues but some reflect the differing political views held by those who agreed with the basic demands. There are 166 different petitions. The particular one signed is shown in the attached image with each record.
There are 81, 035 signatures available to search, from all over Ireland and parts of England. The petition was one of the first mass political movements of its type and appealed for clemency for a well-known rebel leader, sentenced to death for his part in an abortive uprising.
William Smith O’Brien was the younger son of Baron Inchiquin. His family were well established political conservatives and supporters of the Orange Order. O’Brien was an MP and a radical. In 1843, he joined Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal movement, which wanted to overturn the Act of Union, but they weren’t radical enough. In 1846 he joined the revolutionary Young Irelanders who wanted nothing less than Irish independence.
On July 29th 1848 he led an abortive uprising in Ballingarry, Co. Tipperary. It became known as “the battle of Widow McCormack’s cabbage patch”. O’Brien was arrested on August 6th 1848 and tried for high treason before the Irish Lord Chief Justice and others at a special sitting of the Commission of Oyer and Terminer (the forerunner of the High Court) at Clonmel, Co. Tipperary. He was sentenced to hang on October 10th 1848, even though the jury had asked for a lighter sentence.
After the sentence, meetings were organised across Ireland and the petition was started. It urged clemency and highlighted the jury’s recommendations. 31 out of 32 counties signed, with the exception of County Offaly (or Kings County, as it was then known) 50% in Dublin signed and 8,000 signed in England, mainly Chartists and Irish immigrants. Signatories came from a wide range of political stances but most were broadly nationalist, although the Orange Institution of Dublin signed. Most are male although there are over 1,000 women. Most of the signatories were literate tradesmen, farmers or artisans. It’s worth bearing in mind that these events took place at the height of the Great Famine.