This final excerpt  of Land Rentals, explains about the records or  Rent Books that were kept to record payments due on the land rented. There is also comprehensive coverage of what records exist and how to access them. These are  some of the questions that my colleague Jim Ryan of Flyleaf Press and Ancestor Network has answered in his definitive article on Irish land records or Rentals in his recent blog.   

Jim has kindly given me permission to reproduce his blog in sections. Next week I hope to publish a list of surviving Kerry land records and where to access them as in my book Finding Your Ancestors in Kerry

Rental records exist from the 1600s to very recent times and  are typically  part of the wider set of documents described as ‘Estate Records’ which contain the letters, wills, accounts, deeds, maps and other material compiled over centuries by estate owners.   Many of these sets of papers are in Irish archives (see below).  Within these wider collections,  the property-related documents are generally of the following forms:

The Rental or Rent-roll is usually a hard-bound book into which the details of all tenants are inserted for successive years.   Some of these, especially for the larger estates,  have very ornate covers.  An example is shown below.    Their internal layout during the 17th and 18th century rentals is usually blank pages with no columns, or with hand-drawn columns. In the late 19th century, pro-forma printed books became available with standard columns.     Although formats are variable, they typically list the tenants within each townland within the estate and (for each) the rent due, arrears, rent received, and observations.    Some will also list the area of land within each holding, tithes due,  and terms and other information on leases  etc.  Some have an index to all of the tenants listed, and/or the properties rented.   

Fig.11: Lord Kenmare’s Estate Ledgers

Combined Rental  and account books.   Some agents kept ledgers which combine rent receipts with accounts for tradesmen and labourers hired for work on the estate, and for suppliers.  This would be a logical approach if the agent’s task was to manage the affairs of the estate using the income from rent.  It would make particular sense if some of the tenants were paying their rent in the form of labour or goods.  The resulting documents are ledgers in the debit/contra style where some of the persons are  tenants paying rents only,  others are supplying services or goods but are not tenants, and others are tenants who are also providing services or goods as part of their rent payment.

Maps and Valuations.   Estates were businesses with a definable income from rents.  Financial valuations were often conducted prior to the sale of an estate, or for probate or dowry purposes. Reports on an estate and its productive capacity were also compiled for other reasons, e.g. to determine whether the land was being farmed adequately, or for rent review purposes.   Such valuations and reports often list individual tenants, and provide information on their lease terms and/or farming activities.  Some of these reports and valuations also include maps showing the holdings of each tenant.  Some of these are very ornate and detailed.  An example is in Figure 12.    The National Library of Ireland has an extensive collection.

Other documents.    Rental-related documents included among estate papers may also include rent books, leases, mortgages, receipts, letters from tenants, notes to/from agents relating to tenant issues etc.  and many other documents, which may provide further useful information on tenants.

Where can rentals be accessed?

Having whetted your appetite for rentals and their potential, where can they be found?   Firstly,   rentals are private records which were the property of the individual estates that generated them. There was and is no obligation on estate owners to make them accessible to others,  so their availability is entirely dependent on whether they have been donated to some public archive,  or otherwise made available for research.  Secondly,  only a small proportion of rentals survive.   The majority of rentals have probably been dumped over the centuries as their practical value ceased,  as is the way with most business records.  However, some still survive.    Very few  are available on-line,  particularly by the major genealogy websites.  A valuable  exception are the records of the Landed Estates Court (see below).   Most rentals must therefore be accessed in their original form or on microfilm in archives.

The major locations for Irish rentals are:

The National Library of Ireland has an extensive collection of estate papers which include some 1700 rentals. The existence of estate papers can be established using the ‘Sources’ database, managed by the National Library.  It  provides information on material relevant to Irish history in many Irish and other European archives.

The National Archives of Ireland,  and the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland also have collections of rentals which have been donated, or which have come into public ownership through  other means.  It is useful, as an initial step,  to seek estate papers within these archives rather than rentals.  The rentals can be found within the estate papers,  but sometimes described as ‘lists of tenants..’  or ‘Tenant accounts…’  or ‘Rent rolls‘  rather than rentals so make sure not to only search using the word ‘rental’.

The Local History Sections of some County Libraries, and some County Archives  also have rentals donated by local people and institutions.   Each Irish county has a library system and in one of the libraries will be a ‘Local History’ section with items of local relevance.  Some counties also have dedicated County Archives with similar material.    The contact details and websites of County libraries  can be accessed here.  Some of these institutions have been actively putting  their rental holdings on-line.   Good examples are the county libraries of Limerick and Galway.

In addition, Trinity College Library in Dublin also has extensive records of rentals  as the college was itself an estate owner in the past.

There are also many Irish rentals in UK Archives & Libraries.  This is because many owners of Irish estates were English residents and their records were often donated to, or  acquired by British archives.  The NLI Sources database above notes many of these.

Encumbered Estates Court.  This  Court was established in 1849  (and renamed the Landed Estates Court (LEC) in 1852)  to cater for the huge number of estates that became bankrupt at that time.  Although bankrupt,  many estates could not be legally sold by the owners as they were entailed, i.e. they had entered into legal agreements which prevented their sale.   The courts addressed these issues and allowed landlords to sell these estates.   The process of the sale required a formal auction of the estate for which a sales brochure was prepared. This brochure generally listed all of the tenants and the basis of their tenure (see Fig 13).  These are a very useful source of information for tenants at this period.  In addition,  as the precise lease details are listed,  they also indicate previous ownership.

These have been digitised and put on-line by FindMyPast.ie  and provide information on over 8,000 estates.

Fig: 13 An example of a rental in a brochure for sale of an estate in north Kerry with list of Tenants 1851.

Comprises the ordnance Townlands of Carigeen and Inchinapoagh in the Barony of Trughanacmy and County Kerry. On this Lot is an extensive and most improvable trace of moor with a new line of road through the centre of it.  The Lands are held by good and solvent Tenants along the Southern bank of the River Feale (one of the best Salmon Rivers in Ireland), for about two miles.  The Tenant’s houses are of a superior class, the road from Listowel to New-market runs through the entire length of the Lot, which is distant about 5 miles from Abbeyfeale and 10 from Castleisland, both good Market and Post towns’.

A huge proportion of the records are still in the hands of the original estates.  Many of the families that own these estates still live in their ancestral homes,   although often in much reduced circumstances.  The Sources database noted above includes reports conducted by the National Library on the content of Private Collections within the country.  These may be useful in tracking the existence of papers for a specific estate.  A complication in tracking estate papers and their associated rentals is that estates (or parts of estates) were often transferred to others through marriage,  inheritance or sale.   The rentals would therefore become part of a different estate.  Larger estates often keep separate books for new estates and even indicate its the original owner by the name of that part of the estate.  It may, however, complicate the process of finding a rental within the large body of estate papers which exist.

So, how do you find the rental you need?   Essentially, you will first have to establish the landlord in the area when and where your ancestor lived, and then search to see if their estate papers have survived.  There are a few sources you can use for this.   One source for the mid 19th century is Griffith’s Valuation which lists all land-holders and their landlords.   

Fig: 14 one means of establishing the landlord within an area is to consult the ‘Immediate Lessor’ col in Griffiths Valuation

In this record is a column headed ‘immediate lessor’ (see Fig 14) which indicates the landlord for each property occupier at the time of the survey (1840s-1860s).  Note that this person  may be a ‘middleman’ (see above) who rents the land from the estate and then sub-lets to others.  If this is the case,  the tenant will not appear in the estate records as they are not a direct tenant of the estate.

 

Another very valuable resource for locating estates in the West and South is the Landed Estates database . This website is being compiled by University College Galway as  “a comprehensive and integrated resource guide to landed estates and historic houses in Connacht and Munster, c. 1700-1914″.  It details estates in Connaught and Munster and indicates the ownership of lands by individual families over a wide period.

There are also many other sources which list the landlords in particular areas that can be used for this purpose.  For instance, local histories will usually contain information on the major local landlords in each area.

Another very valuable resource for locating estates in the West and South is the Landed Estates database . This website is being compiled by University College Galway as  “a comprehensive and integrated resource guide to landed estates and historic houses in Connacht and Munster, c. 1700-1914″.  It details estates in Connaught and Munster and indicates the ownership of lands by individual families over a wide period.

There are also many other sources which list the landlords in particular areas that can be used for this purpose.  For instance, local histories will usually contain information on the major local landlords in each area.

Source: by kind permission of Jim RyanAncestor NetworkFull Article