Kerry Famine Evictions

Evictions  occurred in Ireland when tenants could not pay the rent? While this might be the simplistic view it is not the full story. Inability to  pay the rent was usually the reason, but there were also a number of other explanations. Unreasonable  and unjust rent increases or landlords consolidating land from smallholdings that had been divided and sub-divided was another reason.   Quarrels and disputes between the chain of 'middlemen', agents and owner/landlord often ended in the ejectment of the unfortunate tenant who became a pawn in their disputes.

The Irish Famine Eviction project has to-date logged details of over 400 evictions carried out during the years 1845-1852 countrywide.  Ten of these eviction sites are listed for Kerry with one hundred and thirty two families dispossessed.  Trinity College was the benefical landlord of all of these particular estates and while we don't have exact details for all of the evictions, in the case of one which I chanced on this week, while researching a Kerry ancestry in the Civil Parish of  Killury, the reason was a dispute between the immediate middleman and the chain of middlemen appointed by Trinity College.  In May 1849 the Leinster Express reported that Trinity College, the largest landowner in Ireland, had issued eviction notice against a number of tenants:

I had been checking Griffiths Valuation (AskboutIreland site 1852)for a particular family whom I knew had emigrated to the USA in 1847/1848 so I did not expect to find them in this printed edition.  You might ask, why was I checking an 1852 print list for a family who emigrated in 1847/1848?   Well I might find relatives still there, I might find 'Vacant' ' lots which could mean this might have been the land occupied by my emigrants.  In fact I found neither,

But I then went to where Ireland Valuation Office Books, threw up the very record I was looking for.  Six different books or notebooks were prepared by the valuers before the final valuation (1852 in this case) was completed.  They are Field Book, House Book, Quarto Book, Rent Book, Survey Book, Tenure Book and they date from 1848 to 1852.   Notes, observations and descriptions are handwitten into the books and as such are the original notes (not transcriptions which may have errors).

KEP 1849

In the House Book (1848/1849) I found my emigrant family with a line drawn through the name and a pencilled note 'levelled'.  This one word 'levelled' told me what I wanted to know.   When a family was evicted the house was then 'tumbled' as described in newspapers of the time. This was to prevent the family re-entering or trying to fix it back up again.  In the case of this family, the record showed that they had lived in the parish, in the particular townland and they had emigrated immediately after the eviction.

I will be posting a series of eviction stories  in the coming weeks.  While some of these date from the Great Famine era (1845-1852) there were also quite a number of Kerry evictions in the 1880s associated with the Land War.  If any of my readers have knowledge of other evictions sites throughout Kerry during the 18th and 19th century, I would be glad to list them here.


  1. Mary G. Dubill Mary G. Dubill
    August 2, 2017    

    Fascinating. Had anyone found evictions in Ballylongford in County Kerry? How could I find them?

  2. John Sullivan John Sullivan
    August 3, 2017    

    I’ve been looking at the 1850 Valuation records of Leanamore Townland in Aghavallen Parish (NAI microfilm ref MFGS/46/36, House Book ref# OL/5/1111). There are notes referencing 3 Sep ’47 on some of the pages. All of the pages for this village have structures that are marked “Down”. A rough count of the taxed structures that are marked down is 29 of 105 (~27.6%).

    This is a small village near Listowel which encompasses less than 1500 Acres. The majority of the taxes were paid to Pierce Crosbie who paid the Provost & Fellows of Trinity College.

    I plan to visit a Breen family relation in Lenamore in the next couple of months. She is still living on the land that her ancestors, Jeremiah and Patrick Breen were farming in 1847. My great grandparents emigrated in the 1890’s. I wish to learn as much as I can about the struggles of those who tried to hold on and lost along with those that succeeded. Any advice is greatly welcomed.

    John Patrick Sullivan
    Annapolis, Maryland, USA
    Known North Kerry family names: Breen, Keane, Connor, Young and Mahony

    • Kay Caball Kay Caball
      August 5, 2017    

      John, I know you will really enjoy your visit and you are correct in saying that you should learn as much as possible of the local history of North Kerry before you arrive. This leads to a much better understanding and more balanced view of the past. Also if Google ‘Pierce Crosbie Landed Estates’ you will get a rundown on his family etc.
      A good book I would recommend- available in Woulfe’s Bookshop Listowel, is John D. Pierse’s Teampall Bán which is a book about the Great Famine in the area and also some land records. My own book Finding Your Ancestors In Kerry also has a lot of background to Kerry history in general.

  3. Jane Martley Jane Martley
    August 3, 2017    

    I did not know about this terrible eviction era. Saddened about Trinity College being so involved.

    • Kay Caball Kay Caball
      August 5, 2017    

      Jane, I don’t think there was anything inherently evil in the actions of Trinity. The background as described in Landed Estates: In 1666 the Provost, Fellows and Scholars of Trinity College, Dublin, were granted a total of 61,017 acres in the counties of Limerick, Kerry, Tipperary, Cork and Waterford. Most of this land, 54,479 acres, was in county Kerry. The College’s estates in county Kerry amounted to over 10,000 acres in the 1870s, including lands in the parish of Rattoo, barony of Clanmaurice and the village of Ballylongford, barony of Iraghticonnor. An offer was made by the Congested Districts Board on over 9600 acres of the College’s county Kerry estate after 1909.
      The real problem was that they appointed Agents, who in turn appointed Sub-Agents and you also had ‘middleman’ and the powers that be in Trinity over the years allowed these agents/middlemen to basically do as they pleased. Of course the Agents wanted to make a much money as possible so each layer in the renting process charged an extra levy and if you got an unscrupulous one, he (usually ‘he’) no mercy was shown to the unfortunate tenant.

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