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Estate Records in Ireland

Rent Roll Longford

Rent Roll from the Harman Estate in County Longford, 1785. National Archives of Ireland

   We’re a week out from Hurricane Irma and I’m happy (and blessed) to say that we had no damage.  We were out of power for 3 days, and Internet, phone and tv for 4 days, but other than some food that had to be discarded everything is fine.  My thoughts and prayers are with those who are still struggling especially in the Caribbean who appear to be taking a hit from another storm, Maria. Thank you to all who sent messages of support by email and Facebook.  I appreciate it.

   So back to work.  Most of our ancestors were likely tenants on the estates of the large landholders in Ireland.  As you’ve probably already discovered, there is not a lot of information on them, especially the very small farmers.

   The management of the large estates, sometimes with an absentee landlord, created records…lists of tenants, rent rolls (see above), payments to tradesmen, maps and other documents.  With the break up of these estates in the late 19th and 20th centuries, some of the estate records have found their way into various repositories.  These records are private records so there was no requirement for them to be deposited or saved. Estate records are not available online. PRONI (Public Records Office of Northern Ireland) has made an effort to obtain private records and has one of the larger collections of estate records.  These are not limited to just Northern Ireland.  The National Library and the National Archives also have estate records, but they are not well catalogued.  The best place to look for information is the Sources database, searching under the name of the landlord.  If the landlord’s main residence was in England, his estate records may have been deposited in a repository there.

   So, the first thing you need to do is identify the landlord.  It might be as easy as checking Griffith’s Valuation for the name of the Immediate Lessor.  If it states something like “Earl,” or “Marquis” it’s likely you’ve found the landlord.  However, if it is a name you don’t recognize, try to find the person named as  Immediate Lessor as the Occupier and identify his Immediate Lessor.  Repeat!  When you find the Occupier listed “In Fee” you will have found the owner of the property.   Another place to check is Land Owners in Ireland 1876 which lists all owners of once acre of land.

   In 1856 Griffith’s Valuation in County Mayo, John Daly is leasing his land from Thomas D. Lambert in the townland of Crumlin.  Thomas D. Lambert is also shown as the Occupier of a bog in Crumlin, “In Fee.”  Next I check the Landed Estate Database and find that the Lamberts of Mayo were descended from the Lambert family of Galway.  There is a short bio of the family, but it doesn’t mention Thomas.  I need to find out how Thomas fits into this family. At the bottom of the page, however, it gives me extensive sources for additional information about the Lamberts of Mayo to research on my next visit to Ireland.  

   Next, a check of Sources indicates there is a “Copy of confirmation of arms to the descendants of Francis Lambert of Toher and Thomastown, Co. Mayo and to his grandson, Alexander Clendinning Lambert of Brookhill, Claremorris and Cong Abbey also in Co. Mayo, April 27, 1857.”  This might provide additional family information.  This copy is located at the National Library in their manuscript collection.  There are also some documents on the Rev. Francis Lambert, who changed his name to Ruttledge, so additional research here is also appropriate.  There is no indication that estate papers, but something may turn up in other research.

   My ancestors in County Down, in the parish of Annahilt were tenants of the Marquis of Downshire.  PRONI has a large collection of the papers for his estates.  I was looking for records for the Rush and Moag families and while researching at PRONI, I discovered a box of leases.  (The catalog at PRONI is much more complete than the eCatalog on the website.)  The leases were bundled together and within the box I found a lease for George Rush of Ballycrune, the townland where my Moag/Rush family was located.  I untied the lease for George Rush and unfolded it (it was probably about 30” x 15”).  Although mostly boilerplate, the identifying information was handwritten and it included a map of the property.  The lease was dated 4 Nov 1809 and was for “four acres, three roods and eight perches.”  I also discovered it was a “lease for lives” naming George Rush, now aged 30; William Hegan, only son of James Hegan of Larchfield age sixteen and James McMullen only son of Alexander McMullen of Larchfield age nine.  So now I have some additional names to research. I also found Alexander McMullan listed in the Downshire papers as having sent a list of names of those willing to enroll as infantry in the Yeomanry Act in 1798.  This list names James Rush, Weaver and lists Alexr. McMullan as a Linen Draper Drumbo Parish.  A will for Alexander McMullan of Larchfield was dated 1830, but no other information from the will survives.

1809 Rush, George Lease

A photograph of the lease of George Rush from the Marquis of Downshire.  It was too large to photocopy and I had to order a copy to be mailed to me.  The copy requires a magnifying glass to read!

   In many cases we aren’t going to be able to find specific information about our ancestors, but estate records can help better understand where and how they lived.

   Happy Hunting!


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© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2017