Wood, Herbert (1860–1955), archivist, historian, deputy keeper of the Public Record Office of Ireland, was born on 6 September 1860 at Trinity Square, Lambeth, London, a prosperous residential development for merchants and professionals. He was the sixth of eight children of William James Wood, a surgeon and general practitioner born in Co. Sligo, and Jane M. Wood (née Jeffries) of Great Yarmouth. William died in December 1870 when Herbert was ten years old, and in 1874 his mother married Edward Jones Armstrong, a widower from Dublin. No children were born of her second marriage.
Herbert entered St Edmund Hall, Oxford (1879) and graduated (1883) with a BA in divinity and classics. The following year he moved to Dublin, settling in Dún Laoghaire (then Kingstown), to begin his long career with the Public Record Office of Ireland (PROI). In 1912 he was appointed as an assistant keeper and two years later, in 1914, was promoted to assistant deputy keeper. In 1921, on the retirement of Michael J. McEnery, he became deputy keeper of the Public Records – the operational head of the Irish archives. Regarded as a genial and helpful archivist, Wood was perhaps ahead of his time engaging in public talks on the PROI's collections and hosting visiting student groups at the Record Office.
Inadvertently, among Wood's many publications on Irish records the most significant proved to be his Guide to the records deposited in the Public Record Office of Ireland (1919). This volume was delayed when the lead type and a portion of the manuscript were lost in a fire at the printer's premises during the Easter rising of 1916. The rewritten edition, published immediately after the first world war (1919), described some 5,500 series of records contained in the Record Treasury on the brink on their destruction. It remains the most complete portrayal of the lost collections in the PROI. Wood retired at the age of sixty-three, following the tragic destruction of the Record Office in the Irish civil war (30 June 1922). He was succeeded by his assistant deputy, James F. Morrissey.
A social scholar, Wood was an active member of many academic societies. In 1900 he became a member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland and was a regular presence at their meetings. He was elected a member of the Royal Irish Academy (1905) on the nomination of, among others, James Mills, deputy keeper of the PROI. Wood served as a council member of the RIA (1919–21). He became a corresponding member of the Royal Historical Society in 22 October 1921 and was subsequently invited to become a fellow, from 1933 to 1938 he was a member of the RHS council. Wood's fraternal activities included freemasonry, he became a member of the Grand Master's Lodge of Ireland in 1910, transferring in 1921 to the Lodge of Research, founded in 1914 by a PROI colleague Henry F. Twiss (formerly Berry) MRIA, assistant deputy keeper of the records. Here he joined scholars, antiquarians and genealogists such as William E. Thrift (qv), provost of TCD, George Dames Burtchaell, Athlone pursuivant of arms, and leading expert on the history of Irish freemasonry Philip Crosslé.
Following his retirement from the PROI Wood returned to England from where he maintained strong academic links with Ireland. He continued to do occasional work for the Irish Manuscripts Commission and represented the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland at a number of congresses in Britain. Living initially in London he left the city at the start of the second world war in 1939 moving to Torquay, Devon. His final years were spent in a nursing home at 7, The Circus, Bath where he died on 26 June 1955 in his ninety-fifth year.
His estate was valued at £9,957 10s 3d (probate granted in London, 27 August 1955). While Wood never married, he remained in contact with his extended famiy. In his will he bequeathed sums to his two surviving siblings, and specified amounts to twenty-eight nieces and nephews, their spouses and children. He left sums to a range of medical, educational and military charities, the Royal Hospital for Incurables, Donnybrook, Dublin; the Fellowship of the Maple Leaf, an educational body providing anglican teachers and clergy for remote parts of Canada; The Ex-Services Welfare Society which provided psychological support for 'mentally broken ex-servicemen', and the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund.
A photographic portrait appears in the Mills Album, (National Archives of Ireland: NAI PROI Mills Album), along with an incidental photograph of him working in the reading room of the PROI.
In an extensive writing career from 1904 to 1943 Wood contributed multiple articles on Irish and British medieval and early modern history, and on archival practice, to the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy and the Transactions of the Royal Historical Society among others. He produced edited editions of The registers of S. Catherine, Dublin, 1636–1715 (Parish Register Society of Dublin, 1908, 2nd ed. 2003); Court book of the Liberty of Saint Sepulchre: within the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Dublin, 1586–1590 (Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 1930); The chronicle of Ireland, 1584–1608, by Sir James Perrott (Stationery Office, 1933). His major archival work was the Guide to the records deposited in the Public Record Office of Ireland (1919). Wood's Calendar of the justiciary rolls or proceedings in the court of the justiciar of Ireland, I to VII years of Edward II, prepared with Albert E. Langman, was revised by Margaret C. Griffith and published posthumously by the Stationery Office, Dublin, in 1956.