Extract from Grand Jury Presentment of Dublin City 1806/07.
The relative shortage of Irish sources makes every record linking a name to a place useful. One of the obscure sources which can be used are the Grand Jury Presentments. Grand Juries were the forerunners of the modern County Councils. They were a panel of major landowners established in each county to make decisions on legal and other matters. Although originally responsible only for the Justice system, but this was gradually expanded to commissioning of local public works, i.e. building of roads and bridges, and maintenance of public buildings (infirmaries, courthouses, jails etc). It funded these works by means of a county tax on land, known as a cess or ‘rates’. Catholics could not legally serve on grand juries until 1793, and even after this date the jury lists were still predominantly Protestant. They met in spring and summer, just after the regular Assizes (local court) sessions. In these sessions they would hear ‘presentments’, i.e. proposals for grants for the construction or maintenance of roads and bridges etc; and they would also hear consider and approve payments to public officials for services rendered. The family history relevance of these documents is that (a) the proposals usually include the names of proposed contractors and (in some counties) the names of the persons providing services (see example from Dublin above) ; and (b) on occasion, they specify the work to be done by reference to the property of individuals. For example ‘to build a bridge over the river Lingane at Maurice Shea’s house’ or ‘to repair .. the mail coach road.. between Timothy Duggan’s ditch and Thomas Butler’s gate, all in the townland of Ballydrihid’ (Both from Limerick Grand Jury Presentments of 1831). These references usually include not only approved projects, but also those proposed, but not approved, for funding.
Small Sources 28: This little list of 14 labourers working on the farm of the Hart family of Kilderry House, near Muff, Co. Donegal in 1758 and 1759 is in the National Library of Ireland Ms. 7885. It is interesting for several reasons, not least being that Donegal records are rare, particularly for the 18th century, and lists of labourers are even rarer. In the book ‘The Hart family of Donegal’ by Henry Travers Hart, the author notes that in this period “the whole of the fields were rigidly cultivated by a staff of labourers … and by this means Kilderry House was rendered more tenantable on account of the better drainage of the soil..”. It also notes that there were large numbers of labourers employed, so why these 14 are specifically cited in the records is not clear. It may be that they were only occasional workers. The records show that they were paid for around 60 days within a 6-month period.
The list is notable secondly for the occurrence of some interesting names. The forename Tadgh (pronounced teig; or hear its pronunciation here) is not uncommon in Ireland. Tadhg Furlong is one of the current heroes of the Irish Rugby team, for instance. However, it is usually converted to Timothy in older records. Its popularity in some parts of Northern Ireland led to the name (rendered as Taig) being used as a pejorative term for Catholics. The other unusual name is Nahor or Naher (spelt Knogher in this record). A Knogher Dogherty is also listed among the tenants of the estate. This name is very specific to Donegal. For instance, in the 1901 census there are only 14 persons of this name recorded, all of them in the Northern counties and 11 in Donegal. An identical name, of Biblical origin is sometimes found in non-Irish records, but is not related.
This rental of 63 tenants in the Dingle area of County Kerry is in the Trant Papers in the National Library of Ireland collection. The Trant family were originally from this area of Co. Kerry but moved in the early 1800s to an estate in Dovea, Co. Tipperary. They continued to own land in Kerry until the 1820s. Information on the Trant family and their estates is in the Landed Estates Database. The tenant names listed below are extracted from several loose-page rentals relating to the Trant Kerry holdings in 1791/92: the NLI references to these items are Ms 31,561 Items 15 and Ms 31,561 Item 16. The Trant family also had holdings in several other counties at this time. The Kerry properties are indicated in the documents as then being the property of William Trant, a minor. Most of the locations mentioned are townlands in civil parishes on the western end of the Dingle Peninsula, i.e. Kilmalkedar, Garfinny, Dingle and Ventry (all in the Barony of Corkaguiny). Others could not be identified with any certainty. The holding sizes are very varied, with rents varying from 10 shillings to 60 pounds. This is a valuable list as there a few other sources for this region at this time. The earliest Catholic records in the area are in Kilmalkedar (Ballyferriter) in 1807, while Dingle records do not start until 1825. Flyleaf Press publish a comprehensive guide to research in this county ‘Finding your Ancestors in Kerry‘. Ancestor Network will offer 1 free hour of research by a professional researcher to conduct further research on these individuals, and/or to obtain copies of the original documents. Click here and quote ‘Kerry SS27’ in the subject line.