In a predominantly agricultural community, land is the main resource and access to land is the basis of power. Ownership of land, both in Kerry and Ireland in general, has been a major cause of conflict, both on the battlefield and in the courtroom. We have our own version of it in John B.Keane’s The Field.
Identification of Kerry ancestors, can in a lot of cases be proven from land records, whether the Tithe Applotments, Griffith’s Valuation or indeed in the Estate papers of Landlords. These were records kept by landlords in renting and managing their properties. If your Kerry ancestor was renting land, as most were, you could be lucky in finding a record of him (usually ‘him’, hardly ever ‘her’), in the papers in repositories such as the National Archives, National Library or Kerry County Library Local History & Archives. Very few of these records are digitised, so it requires a visit to the archive in question. Not all Landlord’s papers have survived of course.
The major collections of Kerry estate papers are listed on p. 87-90 of Finding Your Ancestors in Kerry.
In the 1870’s the lands held in County Kerry by the Browne family, Earls of Kenmare amounted to over 91,000 acres. Their estate also included a further 22,000 acres in County Cork and over 4,000 acres in County Limerick. In total, the Kenmare Estate covered at that time over 117,000 acres. The rent ledgers that are available here relate to the Kerry portion of the estate.
Here is a sample of the rental record of Morto Hurley of Fossa for 'Land, Office & House' of 28acres 3roods 10perchs with a valuation of £24.5s.0d. dated 11th December 1877. The rents were paid twice a year, they fell due on what were known as the 'gale days' - May and November.
These digitised records are invaluable. Without leaving the comfort of our own homes, we can search and find for instance records such as Morto Hurleys. Digitisation also means that these original records can be kept in pristine condition for future generations. Conservation and preservation of valuable records of Kerry history would dictate the least amount of handling of the originals.
I will be giving a lecture myself on Finding Your Kerry Ancestors in Muckross House (Garden Restaurant) on Friday evening 15th April.