Small Sources 69: Estate papers are an intriguing mix of the myriad documents generated by a family and their staff in the management of their estate and its tenants, and in their own daily lives, often over several generations. The contents typically comprise rentals, deeds, personal and business correspondence, staff records, maps and wills. While these documents have a clear value for family history, estate papers also include many other items such as bills, notices, receipts, recipes and lists of all sorts. Within this mix of trivia, a document may occasionally be found that illustrates some aspect of the Irish experience. This blog deals with such a document.
It is a single page list of farmers from among the estate papers of the Hutchinson family of Timoney, Co. Tipperary … 1791 – c. 1850’ (National Library of Ireland Ms 8917 (3)). The background to this document appears to be that 2 dogs or ‘hounds’ owned by local landlord William Hutchinson (1786-1832) had been killed by persons unknown on his rented property. The document is an affidavit ‘signed’ by 19 local farmers in 1821 swearing that they knew nothing about the death of the dogs.
This document is interesting because it illustrates two useful points for those with an interest in Irish history and records. These are (a) the extraordinary power of Irish landlords and (b) why many land occupiers do not appear in the records of land-holders.
(a) The power of the landlords. Establishing the perpetrators of a crime, even the killing of a dog, would nowadays require evidence and due process. However, in the Ireland of 1821, the landlord was the law. Such was his power, he could force 19 of his tenants to go before a Justice of the Peace and be made to swear an oath that they were not involved, and that they had no knowledge of the persons who were. The document (see Figure 1 and full text below) is the sworn statement by 19 farmers validated by a Justice of the Peace. All of the farmers are illiterate, and sign their statement with an X (see illustration above).
In 1821, when this document was created, the concept of innocence until proven guilty was not a consideration for Mr Hutchinson.This ability of many landlords to use the law to their own ends was commented upon by independent commentators on Irish affairs. There were of course benevolent landlords who treated their tenants fairly. One Canadian visitor to Ireland captured the situation well in saying that “To fix the rent, to collect the rent, to make rules as whim or cupidity dictates, to enforce them, in many instances with great brutality, is the sole business of the landlord; and the whole power of the Executive of England is at his back. Other views of visitors on the power and activities of landlords are outlined in our article Eyewitnesses to our ancestors.
This power was guaranteed by their ownership of the land, and their legal ability to rent their land on whatever terms they wished, which was usually ‘at will’, i.e. the tenant could be ejected at any time. Tenants, who were the vast majority of the rural population were therefore highly dependent on landlords for their income and housing. This dependency made them wary of incurring landlord displeasure. Access to courts was unwise, as the land-owners or their peers were usually the magistrates in local courts and also occupied all other public positions. Catholics had been barred from such positions during most of the previous 120 years, and although these ‘Penal Laws‘ were gradually being relaxed, power did not change hands quickly. In later decades this power gradually crumbled in the face of several factors, including a popular movement called the Land League.
(b) The ‘gaps’ in our records. The document also illustrates why some land records do not record all land occupiers. It names 19 farmers in the townland of Clonmore, which is close to the Tipperary border. Family historians wishing to validate their occupancy of this townland would naturally access the Tithe Applotment returns which were compiled from 1823 to 37. However, only 3 of the 19 are listed in these records for Clonmore. The three who are on both records are Patrick Creary (8 acres), Pierce Landers (8 acres) and Timothee Fahee (12 acres). Because this is a legal document, and the information was provided by the local landlord we can be assured that it is an accurate statement of their address. So where are the remaining 16 and why are they not listed? An abstract from the list of land-holders in the Tithe records is in Figure 2. Note that several of the tenants names are followed by ‘& Co.’. This indicates that the tenant is the nominee for a consortium of other tenants, all of whom are occupants of the land. The missing 16 farmers are almost certainly members of one or other of these consortia. This was a very common practice and is described in more detail in our article on Rentals. Their individual holdings would have been very small, but this was also very common at the time. Note that the acreage of the holdings stated in the tithes is in ‘Irish Acres‘ which are 1.6 times the size of a statute acres so the holdings are somewhat bigger than they appear, but still small. It is unfortunate that this practice has resulted in records which omit many land occupiers. Look out for ‘& Co.’ in the records if you are wondering why your ancestor is not listed.
Given that there are many tenants in Clonmore, it must be presumed that the 19 were the ‘usual suspects’ in relation to the deaths of his hounds. Poaching may be a factor in the incident, or possibly the dogs were causing damage to the crops. We will never know. The full text of the document is as follows:
By .. his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace for Queen’s County. Patrick Creary Senr. Patrick Creary Junr. Thomas Creary John Creary James Fogerty Thomas Fogerty Darby Fogerty Pearce Landers James Landers Thomas Fahee Laurence Fitzpatrick John Meagher Cornelius Meagher Timothy Fahee Michael Fahee Timothy Maher
All of Clonmore Ossory in said county farmers came this day before me and made oath on the holy evangelists that they neither killed nor have any knowledge of any person or persons killing the hound belonging to William Hutchinson Esq. of Timooney in the County of Tipperary which they heard was found dead on the seventh day of April instant on the lands of Clonmore aforesaid, or the hound which was formerly found dead on said lands belonging to said William Hutchinson Esq. or the hare which was hunted on said lands by his son Mr John Hutchinson on Thursday last. Sworn respectively before me this 12th day of April 1821. (Signature of Justice is illegible)
At the base of the page all of the names are listed and each has marked X to indicate their swearing. (See illustration at the top).
The Hutchinson family home was Timoney Park, which is close to Clonmore but just across the border in Tipperary. The original Hutchinson settler in Ireland was a Cromwellian soldier one of whose sons John, inherited the Timoney estate. William Hutchinson occupied Timoney Park from approximately 1791 until 1833. Through marriage with the wealthy banker family of Coates, he also possessed estates in a number of counties, and a house in Dublin. In the 1870s the family owned 2,576 acres in county Tipperary and 2,442 acres in Queen’s County. In the 1930s the estate was purchased from them by the Irish Land Commission and divided among local farmers.
Mr Hutchinson’s reputation as a landlord lived on in the area. In 1937-38 the Irish Folklore Commission, in cooperation with the Department of Education, asked schoolchildren to collect local folklore in their areas. Over 50,000 schoolchildren from 5,000 schools cooperated and produced 740,000 pages of hand-written material. Among this wonderful collection, all of which is available on-line, is a contribution from a 15-year old local girl Eilish Collier. She writes that Captain Hutchinson .. “lived in Timony House, he was a big landlord. He was very hard on the tenants, and any time his tenants failed to pay their rents, he put them on foot and put Protestants in their places“.
Creary is an unusual name, but Laois (Queen’s County) is where most families of this name are found: Meagher and Fogerty (usually spelled Fogarty) are very common in Tipperary and surroundings; Landers is mainly found in Waterford and Cork, but present in many counties; and Fahee (usually spelled Fahy) is common in Tipperary, Mayo and (particularly) in Galway.
Ancestor Network will offer 1 free hour of research by a professional researcher to conduct further research on these individuals or others in the extensive Hutchinson Estate papers. Click here and quote ‘Laois SS69’ in the subject line.
Other articles in our series on Irish Family Sources:
- Petty Sessions– the records of local courts
- Grand Jury Presentments – records of local councils on payments for public works and staff
- Rentals – management of tenants by estates and the records created
- Middle names – the use (or non-use) of second or middle names in Irish records
- How comprehensive are Irish Civil Records?
- Civil registration of births, Marriages and deaths
- Catholic Church Records
- Travellers’ accounts of Ireland in the 18th and 19th centuries
- Census returns in Gaelic or Irish language
- 60+ blogs with names extracted from manuscript sources. A handy map index to these is available here.