Barnardos Family Tracing Service

Important Notice to Survivors of industrial schools seeking family roots
I urge all survivors of industrial *schools* who do not know their origins to go immediately to the nearest Origins office, run by Barnardos to seek help. The service will become obsolete in a years time, So it’s imperative to contact them now, if survivors feel they have any questions they want to ask about their background. 
Those of us who had no family visitors in our respective institutions have had to go seeking our roots in the aftermath of our incarceration period, and it is a very painful business. Barnardo’s will help in whatever possible way.
For instance – I know survivors who’ve come away from the service having being introduced to relatives, they never knew they had before, they were absolutely astounded at the wealth of knowledge they received at Origins.
I was also talking to a survivor the other day who was not cognisant of this service, that is currently available. I told the survivor where the Dublin office was, and I sincerely hope that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for same. Of course there is also the risk of disappointment and utter sadness, but it’s better to know the truth about oneself – one way or the other – than to be left wondering about ones origins. The un-knowningness can eat away at one, as I know only too well from experience. Please take advantage of this service that was specifically set up by the government to help survivors of industrial schools. I wish all of you who read this urgent notice, and who avail of the service every success.

Barnardos Family Tracing Service

ORIGINS is the name of the family tracing and information service from Barnardos. The service is specifically for people who spent part of their childhood in residential institutions.Origins supports individuals who wish to access personal information held by the Department of Education and Science, other Government departments and religious orders concerning their stay in industrial or reformatory schools, or assists them in tracing family members.

Origins is an expansion of the independent information, advice and counselling service Barnardos has provided (on a voluntary basis) since 1977 for persons separated from their families of origin.

The service is funded by the Department of Education and Science.

The Origins Service consists of a team of Information Counsellors and administrative staff based in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Wexford and a Service Manager.

Download the Application Form

Download the application form (MS Word Document) for the Origins: Information and Family Tracing Service.


Origins staff will give the respect and recognition due to all former residents of industrial and reformatory schools, independent of their race, gender, age, marital or family status, sexual orientation, physical or mental capacities, ethnicity, membership of the Travelling community, social origin, or political or religious affiliations.

Accessing Your Records

The Department of Education and Science has provided an electronic copy fo the personal records of former residents of industrial schools to Barnardos. The records remain the property of the Department. Origins will only access the records of Origins service users.What do the Records Contain? Records so not always contain the information you may hope to find. Very few include day-do-day accounts of life in the schools. Things you remember clearly may not be recorded. For many people there are no records at all. The Department of Education and Science only maintained records on former residents who were placed in industrial schools by the courts.

What Records Will I Be Given?

You will be given any records about yourself, including medical records if they exist.With regards to family members, we can give you their names, ages and the schools they attended if this information is recorded. We cannot share the records of other family members with you without their permission.

We will also try to obtain information from other sources, which are not part of the Department of Education and Science database, about your time in an industrial or reformatory school, and about your family background. This may take more time.


We know that the information contained in these records is of an extremely personal and confidential nature. Barnardos Information Counsellors will only access your records on your written request .All of your records are treated as confidential within Barnardos. Only staff members working directly on your enquiry, along with the Manger of the Origins Services, have access to your information.

Third Party Information

“Third Party Information” is that which is written about another individual, or a document from another agency (for example, the ISPCC). Other agencies may want a formal request for permission before they release such documents. You may need to write a letter requesting the documents (we could write the letter on your behalf). Anything in your records about people other than your family members will not be shared with you, without their permission. Information regarding your history will not be shared with third parties unless:

a) you have given written permission, or
b) there are concerns for the safety of yourself or others, particularly the safety of children

The latter situation is exception; in the event of this situation, you will be fully informed.

How Will We Arrange for You to See your Records?

After you have contacted us asking to see your records, and Information Counsellor will arrange a first meeting with you at a time that suits both of you. After this meeting, we will search for your records. We will then arrange another meeting with you to discuss any information we have founds.

If for any reason it is not possible for you to visit our office nearest to you, please let us know.

Will I Need to Verify Who I Am?

Yes, you will need to provide proof of your identity when you meet with the Information Counsellor. Any one of the following items can be used as proof of identity:

  • Driving licence
  • Benefit book
  • Medical card
  • PPS card
  • Pension book
  • Savings book

If the item you bring does not contain your current address, please bring some other evidence to this purpose, such as a recent utility bill (ESB bill, telephone bill, etc.). This provides security for you and for us that only you can access your personal records.

What Will Happen When I Come to the Office?

The Information Counsellor will go through your records with you and explain them to you. You may want to bring a partner or a friends with you for support, as some people find reading information about themselves and their family background distressing. It may bring up memories of the past, which you thought had been forgotten. It may be necessary for you to make more than one journey to the office to complete the reading of you records. You can arrange this with the Information Counsellor who has researched your records.

Can I Take My Records Away?

Yes. When you have read through your records with the Information Counsellor, if you wish you will be able to take away a copy of everything you have read.

Sharing Records

We realise that it may seem quite natural for one member of a family to obtain records and then pass them on to the others. But each individual’s experience has been different. So please think carefully before passing on what you have learned to another member of your family. If this family member has not had any preparation, they may find the information very distressing. It can also be hurtful and damaging for a family member such as a parent to read what was written about them many years ago.

Will Reading My Records Answer All My Questions About the Past? This is unlikely. As we have already explained, there are many gaps in the records for all sorts of reasons.

People have different reactions to reading their records. Most people who have had information from their records are glad they asked. Some say they have a better sense of who they are. Some have a better understanding of why their families parted with them and this can be a healing experience. Others are left with unanswered questions, which can be upsetting and disappointing.

Can Barnardos Refuse to Let Me See My Records? Only in very exceptional circumstances may we postpone access to your records. In such an event, the reasons will be discussed fully with you. This could happen where there was evidence of a real risk of serious harm occurring to yourself or another individual as a direct result of reading the records. In such unusual circumstances, Barnardos would be obliged to:

a) Show evidence of such a risk.
b) Ensure that you are well supported.
c) Review the decision to withhold the records within a reasonable time so that access to records could take place when the risk of serious harm has passed.

Tracing Family Members

As well as offering support in accessing your records, we will provide you with help in tracing family members from whom you have been separated as a child. If our tracing service is successful in finding a family member on your behalf, we are not permitted to release that family member’s current address without their consent. However, we will make every effort to mediate with your family member on your behalf and provide such supports as may be helpful.

Any such mediation and tracing undertaken under this section will be conducted in accordance with the customs, conventions and practices followed by Barnardos, and these will be explained fully when we meet with you. This service is also available to people where the Department of Education and Science has maintained no records on his/her period of residence.

Protecting Children

Barnardos is an agency committed to the highest standards of child protection. You need to be aware that if you tell us about ill treatment of children in the present, we must pass this on to the police or the Community Care Social Work Team, whose duty it is to take action to protect children. We will always try to do this with care and sensitivity to your feelings. We hope that, in such circumstances, you would understand the importance of taking this action.

Applying for the Service

You can apply directly to Barnardos. Apply to the office nearest you and ask for the Origins Information and Tracing Service. You can also download the application form (MS Word Document) here.

Christchurch Square,
Dublin 8.
T: 01- 453 03 55
If calling from the UK please dial:
00 353 1 453 03 55
Bowling Green,
White Street,
T: 021 431 05 91
Unit 1 F
Deerpark Business Park,
T: 091 388 292
The Bungalow,
16 North Parade,
Co. Wexford.
T: 05394 810 14

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