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Monthly Archives: February 2019

loughrea-tenants

Some tenants of Clanricarde Estate in Loughrea, Galway in 1780

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Small Sources 45.   This list of 43 tenants is from a document (NLI Ms. 2119) in the Clanricarde papers in the National Library of Ireland entitled ‘List of arrears due May 1777 with the different yearly rentals from that period to November 1780 as also a list of the arrears then due … during the employment of John Nowlan as agent and receiver of rents to the Right Honourable John Smith De Burgo, Earl of Clanricarde, as extracted from his lordships ledger found in the possession of his late agent William Morrissy’.  See our article here for a detailed account of rentals and their relevance.  The document provides the names and properties as below, and also the rent, the arrears due and (for some) observations on their status. For instance in the entry for Hutchinson, who rents ‘Knowles plot’ the observation is ‘Knowles died a beggar’. Note that several tenants are listed as ‘Esq.’ meaning Esquire, which was a title of respect for men of higher social rank, e.g. landed gentry above the rank of gentleman. The rents vary widely from £275 (Peter Killkenny) to 8 shillings (James Kenny, and also John Harrison) to 4 shillings (Widow W. Hugo for a ‘cabin on the rock’).  ‘Chief Rent’  mentioned below is what is now termed Ground Rent.  Some of these people are listed in a Survey of Loughrea in 1791.

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Rentals as a resource for Irish family history

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This article deals with rentals, a term also used in North America for hire cars,  but here referring to records of rent payments by tenants on Irish estates,  particularly during the 18th and 19th centuries.  They are a potentially valuable source of family history information that is often overlooked, mainly because very few are available  on-line.

1. Background

During the 18th and most of the 19th centuries, almost every Irish farmer and small-holder was a tenant of one of the large estates whose Anglo-Irish gentry owners controlled every aspect of Irish life. The reason for this was that successive rebellions against British administration in earlier centuries had resulted in almost all Irish land being confiscated from its historic owners.  This land was then granted to those who were proven to be loyal to British interests. These included the ‘adventurers’ who had funded the armies involved in quelling Irish  rebellions;   the soldiers who served in the armies involved (in lieu of pay);  and also others who were due favours by the British court.   These new owners (and their successors) rented the land to the existing occupiers, or in some cases (particularly Ulster) settled their new properties with immigrants from Scotland and England.  In parallel, draconian anti-Catholic legislation (called the Penal Laws) was imposed from 1703 limiting the right of Catholics to own property above a certain value;  to hold public positions; and to receive education.  The rights of Presbyterians were also curtailed.  This created a situation whereby acceptance of the role of tenant with no rights was the only option available to most Catholics.

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cloncurry

Rental of Cloncurry Estate in Limerick in 1818.

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Small Sources No. 44. This is a list of 69 tenants on the Cloncurry estate  in the Civil Parish of Abington (Barony of Owneybeg) directly east of the City of Limerick. The original document is a rental in the National Library of Ireland (NLI Ms. 8183).   See our article here for a detailed account of rentals and their relevance.  The tenants are a mix of large and small tenants who together paid a total of £5,193 in rent,  but the individual holdings range in rental amounts from £1.15 shillings to £965. The size of holdings is not provided.  The record does provide the rent due and paid and any arrears.  The notes in brackets provide some additional information on local townland names.   The Abington estate comprised 1,796 acres and belonged to Lord Cloncurry, whose main estates and residence was in County Kildare.  Further information on his Limerick estate is available here.  He was a controversial figure in the Ireland of his time.  He was associated with the rebel group, the United Irishmen,  and was imprisoned on suspicion of treason in 1798.  However, he gained greater prominence after suing a friend for having an affair with his wife.  The court case proved one of the great scandals of the time.     A detailed account of the life of Lord Cloncurry and his attempts to introduce reforms to his Abington and other estates is in a Maynooth University PhD thesis available here.   This is of particular interest because it describes his efforts to ‘improve’ his estates, i.e. to provide assistance to his tenants by developing their farms and the local infrastructure.   As an ‘improving’ landlord, he gradually eliminated the ‘middle men’ on his estates.  These were large tenants who did not themselves  till the land,  but rented it in smaller lots to sub-tenants. They often charged very high rents and provided no support to their tenants.    Cloncurry got rid of these middle-men (where he legally could) so that he could deal directly with those tenants who worked the land.   It is interesting to note, for instance that in 1818 there are only 4 tenants in the townland of Mongfune below,  whereas in the Griffith Valuation (1851) he has 24 tenants in this townland.   Only one of the 1818 tenants,  Matthew Duhy,  is still present and he is himself a large farmer.   Henry White, a tenant in Knockanerry, seems  also to be a middle-man and appears in the Valuation Books of 1850 as a holder of 31 properties in this townland.

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