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 FindMyPast.ie 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).
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.