This Irish Genealogy site offers the Irish descendant (from New York, Canada, UK, Australia...) the chance to trace their Irish family tree and search for their surname origins and the records of their Irish ancestor's birth, marriage or death.
Kyle J. Betit is a professional genealogist, lecturer and author residing
in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kyle specializes in Irish and immigration research.
Kyle Betit is Research Director of ProGenealogists, Inc., in Salt Lake City
and the author of the Irish Genealogy Pages at
Landholding in Ireland
Many of our Irish ancestors were tenant farmers who rented or leased their
land directly from a landowner or indirectly from a "middleman." Only a
small proportion of people in Ireland (perhaps about 2% in the nineteenth
century) owned their land outright (referred to as holding your land "in
fee."). They consisted primarily of the nobility and landed gentry. There
could be several layers of middlemen engaged in subleasing, between the
individual who actually owned the land and your ancestor. Tenants’ arrangements
with their landlords were vitally important in the tenants’ lives. Land
holding arrangements affected economic prosperity, the nature of farming,
inheritance and emigration patterns.
One type of lease that was common in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries,
having great potential for genealogical information, was the "lease for
lives." A "lease for lives" remains in effect as long as the specific person(s)
named in the lease are still living. As soon as all of the "lives" named
in the lease have died, the lease ends. Alternatively, a lease could be
granted for a set number of years (such as 31 years, 100 years, or 999 years).
A tenant could also rent from year to year without holding a lease of any
The “lease of lives” was also important because if you held such a lease
and your land was of enough value, you had the right to vote as a “freeholder.”
You can find extensive information about freeholders, freemen, and voting
records on this web site:
http://ireland.progenealogists.com/freeholders.htm . Also available
there is an inventory of many of the freeholders, freemen, and voting records
that survive and are available to researchers, for each county in Ireland.
During the period of the penal laws in the 1700s, Roman Catholics in
Ireland were restricted in terms of the kinds of land holding into which
they could enter. They were restricted from purchasing land or taking our
leases longer than 31 years. They were not, however, restricted from continuing
to own land that they had in their possession prior to the institution of
the penal laws. In the chronology below, you can find some of the important
dates in the history of the penal laws.
The Registry of Deeds was set up in Dublin in 1708 for the recording
of deeds, although it was not compulsory to register them, so many went
unregistered. The Land Commission assisted many tenant farmers in purchasing
the land they occupied from the large landowners, through the various Land
Purchase Acts, 1881 to 1923. In 1892, the Land Registry was established
to provide a system of compulsory registration of land titles. Once under
the jurisdiction of the Land Registry, records of a particular plot of land
are no longer found in the Registry of Deeds. Many unregistered deeds (pertaining
to ownership and leasing) from the eighteenth and nineteenth century, in
addition to rent rolls and other materials, can be found in the private
papers of the landowners of Ireland, many of which have been deposited in
various repositories in Ireland and Britain.
The Penal Laws
1695 -- Anti-Catholic legislation began in Ireland.
1704 -- The Irish Parliament, exclusively Protestant, enacted a Bill
"To Prevent the Further Growth of Popery" which restricted Catholics from
purchasing land or taking out leases longer than 31 years.
1772 -- An Act of emancipation allowed Catholics to reclaim and hold
50 acres of bog under lease for 61 years but it could not be within a mile
of any city or market town.
1774 -- An Act was passed to permit the King's subjects of whatever religion
to take an oath to testify their loyalty and allegiance to him to promote
peace and industry in the kingdom. Records were kept of those who took the
oath, referred to as the Catholic Qualification Rolls.
1778 -- A Relief Act was passed for Catholics who took the oath prescribed
1782 -- A Relief Act allowed Catholics who took the 1774 oath to purchase
lands in fee, that is, outright ownership.
1793 -- A Relief Act gave Catholics the vote on the same basis as Protestants
and admitted them to the university and government offices.
1829 -- The Catholic Relief Bill was passed. Catholics were admitted
to Parliament and local government corporations. Further, the franchise
was raised to ten pounds, so the forty?shilling freeholders no longer could
Registry of Deeds
Land transactions in Ireland were registered with the Registry of Deeds
in Dublin beginning in 1708. Because registration was not mandatory, not
all land transactions were registered. In the Registry of Deeds you may
find deeds of sale, lease agreements, marriage settlements, and wills, among
other kinds of transactions. The massive collection of records of the Registry
of Deeds from 1708?1929, and the corresponding Surname Index and Lands (or
County) Index, are available on microfilm from the Family History Library
(FHL) in Salt Lake City. The Registry of Deeds on Henrietta Street in Dublin
holds books of deed memorials dating 1708 to present and microfilm copies
from 1930 to present.
Surname Index: There is a personal name index to the grantors
of land (those who sold the land or leased it to others), but not to the
Lands Index: The other index, called the Lands Index or County
Index, is arranged geographically, divided by county or city and time period
and then grouping townland names together by first letter. Using this index,
you can examine all of the deeds relating to a particular townland.
Agnew, Jean. "The Registry of Deeds: A Beginner’s Guide." In Aspects
of Irish Genealogy III: Proceedings of the Third Irish Genealogical Congress,
edited by Christopher Ryan. Dublin: Irish Genealogical Congress Committee,
Grenham, John. Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide.
2nd Ed. Dublin: Gill and Macmillan Ltd., 1999.
Maxwell, Ian. Tracing Your Ancestors in Northern Ireland: A Guide to
Ancestry Research in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
Edinburgh: The Stationery Office, 1997.
Radford, Dwight A. and Kyle J. Betit. “Land Records.” In A Genealogist’s
Guide to Discovering Your Irish Ancestors, 231-238. Cincinnati, OH:
Betterway Books, 2001.
Family History Library: 35 North West Temple, Salt Lake City, UT 84150,
USA; British Isles Ref Tel: (801) 240-2367; Internet:
Registry of Deeds: Henrietta Street, Dublin 1, Ireland; Tel: (01) 6707500;
Fax: (01) 8048408; Internet: