Ware, Sir James (1594–1666), historian, collector of manuscripts, and civil servant, was born 16 November 1594 at Castle St., Dublin, eldest surviving son among ten children of Sir James Ware, auditor general, and his wife Mary, sister of Sir Ambrose Briden of Maidstone, Kent, whose house provided Ware's base in England. His father, a Yorkshireman, came to Ireland in the train of Lord Deputy Sir William Fitzwilliam (qv) in 1588 and built up a substantial landed estate. Ware entered TCD, where his father was the college auditor, as a fellow commoner in 1605 and presented a silver standing bowl in 1609. His association with the college continued, as he particularly remembered the philosophy lectures of Anthony Martin, who became a fellow in 1611. Ware took out his MA on 8 January 1628, but by then he was already launched on his future course. His father procured him the reversion of his office in 1613, and by 1620 he already owned the Annals of Ulster and was taking notes from the Black Book of Christ Church. In 1621 he married Elizabeth, daughter of Jacob Newman, one of the six clerks in chancery. Newman became clerk of the rolls in 1629, which must have facilitated Ware's assiduous researches in the Irish public records.
From his numerous surviving notebooks it is possible to follow his scholarly tracks over the rest of his life. He was particularly concerned to trace the succession of the Irish bishops. The first fruits appeared in print in 1626, Archiepiscoporum Cassiliensium et Tuamensium . . . adjicitur historia coenobiorum Cisterciensium Hiberniae, followed in 1628 by De presulibus Lageniae . . ., the whole to be rounded off in 1665 with De presulibus Hiberniae. . . . However, he had wide interests in Irish history and in 1633 edited Edmund Spenser's (qv) View and the Irish histories of Edmund Campion (qv), Meredith Hanmer (qv), and Henry of Marlborough (qv). The first Irish biographical dictionary followed in 1639, De scriptoribus Hiberniae. Both publications were dedicated to the viceroy, Thomas Wentworth (qv). In public life he was a supporter – first of Wentworth, later of Ormond (qv) – rather than a leader, and always a stout royalist. He was knighted in 1630, and after his father's death in 1632 he succeeded as auditor general. He was elected to parliament for the University of Dublin in 1634, 1640, and 1661, but was not admitted to the privy council until 1640.
Shortly after the outbreak of rebellion (October 1641) he was in England, and in London at the time of the passing of the adventurers act, presumably on the council's business. During Ormond's prolonged negotiations with the confederates he was sent to advise the king at Oxford in November 1645. While there he worked in the Bodleian and was incorporated into the university as a doctor of civil law. On his way back to Ireland (January) he was captured at sea by a parliament ship, and held prisoner in the Tower of London until October 1646. When Ormond was arranging the surrender of Dublin to the parliament in the summer of 1647, Ware was sent to London as one of the hostages for his performance of the terms. Back in Dublin he had been replaced as auditor general, but was able to carry on his work on the public records. In 1648 he published the catalogue of his manuscript library. As a leading royalist he was unwelcome to those governing the city for the parliament and was sent into exile in France on 7 April 1649 with his eldest son, also James (d. 1689), who already held the reversion of the auditor generalship and would eventually succeed his father. Ware was allowed to live in London from October 1650, and from 1653, when hostilities ended in Ireland, he was allowed brief visits there, perhaps taking up residence again in 1658.
His years in London were spent in the library of Archbishop James Ussher (qv), then in Lincolns Inn, and in the Royal, Cotton, Carew, and Dodsworth libraries. He published his De Hibernia et antiquitatibus ejus disquisitiones in 1654, lamenting the inaccessibility of his notes, then in Dublin; the second edition (1658) also included the annals of Henry VII. His Opuscula Sancto Patricio . . . adscripta . . . appeared in 1656. In it he remarks that his knowledge of Irish was not expert enough for an edition of the ‘Lorica’. According to Roderic O'Flaherty (qv), Ware could read and understand but not speak Irish. For the older language he employed Irish scholars, Dubhaltach Mac Firbhisigh (qv) being the last and most learned. The restoration saw him back as auditor general and one of the commissioners for the Irish land settlement. He published annals of Henry VIII in 1662, and in 1664 annals for 1485–1558.
He died in his house in Castle St. on 1 December 1666 and was buried in the family vault in St Werburgh's. He had numerous friends among the scholars of the day, including Irish Franciscans, across the sectarian divide. While clergy lists are still partly dependent on his work, his notebooks and manuscripts remain of first importance for the study of medieval Ireland. Of his ten children two boys and two girls survived him. His wife died on 9 June 1651. The engraving by George Vertue prefixed to Harris’ edition of Ware's Works is claimed to be based on a portrait in the possession of the family.