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Day 2 in Ireland - The Valuation Office and the Registry of Deeds

Reading Room at the Registry of Deeds

I got a good night’s sleep and was ready to go today. I spent the morning at the Valuation Office. After checking in with the staff, and advising them of the location of my search (preferably the Townland and County), I received two bound volumes that covered from 1861-2002. The first volume contained five differed books, bound together. You start at the back of the volume (which is the first book) and work to the front. Hint: When doing this check the page numbers to make sure you haven't skipped a book. If the last page is 90, check to make sure you get back to 1 in the same book. The Revision Books cover the period after Griffith’s giving the information on the person responsible for paying the tax. You can check the details on this wonderful resource here. Although the books for the six counties of Northern Ireland are online at PRONI, the books for the Republic can only be viewed in Dublin. They have been digitizing the books for the past few years and if your location is digitized, you can view it on the computers in their office. In the case of Leitrim, the books have not yet been digitized so I was working with the originals. Make sure you check the website prior to a visit. Currently you do have to make an appointment, but their website will also tell you if any of the books are out for digitization, and therefore not available.

If you’ve been following my blogs since December, you know that my research plan for this trip was focused on the Johnston Family from Rossinver Parish in County Leitrim. The purpose of checking the Revision Books is to see how the property moved. Remember, these were leased properties, not owned in most cases until the early 1900s. My research is hampered by the fact that the landlord in the area is also a Johnston and although his family has the same given names passed down in my family (James and William) I don’t believe my Johnstons are closely related. Out of the over 500 listings at AskAboutIreland for Rossinver Parish, I’ve identified only ten townlands I want to research for occupiers (the rest all refer to the land owning family). I began with the Johnstons of Unshinagh. In Griffith’s, property #12 is listed in the name of James Johnston and encompasses over 35 acres with a house, offices and land…a fairly large holding. His Immediate Lessor is William Johnston, the major landlord for the area. I am looking for more evidence that this James is the father of my 2x great grandmother, Rachel (b. about 1846). I know that James was married a second time in 1858 to Jane Johnston. So what did I find? In 1862 James name is crossed out and the name is changed to Jane.

It appears that this is my James. I have a DNA match to a descendant of James and Jane’s only child, Matilda and she has been able to identify pictures in my great grandmother’s photo album. The next change was when the name changed from Jane to William (Jane). The name in parenthesis is a very important clue as this William had to be identified separately from another William (the landlord) who also owned (In Fee) property in Unshinagh. So my William is carried through the records as William (Jane) meaning the son of Jane. Actually he was Jane’s step-son as he was born about 1850 and William and Jane didn’t marry until 1858. An assumption is that William’s (and therefore my Rachel’s) mother died after William was born but before 1858. Likely with a child less than10 years old, James needed someone to take care of the child. Here’s another thing I learned from this record. I have been looking for a death record for James (beginning in 1864) and haven’t found a good candidate. Based on this record, my James died prior to 1861 (before civil registration) when Jane was named as the rate payer. William being only about 11 years old would not have been old enough to sign a lease. William becomes the lease holder in 1891 and continues to be identified as William (Jane). All of this indirect evidence adds weight to my proof argument William was the son of James and brother of Rachel (also Margaret and Eliza). Now if I can only find a living male descendant to take a Y-DNA test!

William purchases the property under the Land Acts in 1915 (the LAP stamp and the words “In Fee” and also purchases the next property [#13] in 1917 from the Curry/Corry family. Margaret Johnston, the sister of Rachel and William married John Curry. In 1927 the property passes to Wesley, the 2nd son of William. By 1918 the oldest son, George was in Canada. William didn’t die until 1930, so perhaps he was in ill health when the property passed to Wesley.

Wesley sells the property to the Land Commission in 1966 and the Land Commission sells the property to Mrs. Feely as the last entry. Wesley dies in Lancashire, England in 1980. So from Griffith’s Valuation, I have the chain of events occurring over 100 years until the property was sold out of the family. Unfortunately the records of the Land Commission are sitting in a warehouse and unavailable to researchers. Still have a lot more work to do in the Valuation Office and I may not be able to accomplish it this trip.

Now to my afternoon…my appointment was at the Registry of Deeds at 2:00. I had already used the Townland indexes available at the Registry of Deeds Project and FamilySearch. For Leitrim, the records started in 1708 and ended about 1810. The issue with jumping back that far is making the connection to the 1860 Griffith’s Valuation. I have seen references to the fact that the Johnstons came to Leitrim from Fermanagh, but with no specific locality. There are even more Johnstons in Fermanagh and in Leitrim and in fact, William Johnston (above) married Fannie Johnston of Ballydoolagh, Fermanagh.

Back in early March I wrote a blog about the Registry of Deeds and how I created a spreadsheet from the Townland Indexes. With only two hours, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to read a lot of Memorials, so I sent a list of the ones for Unshinagh so they could pull the Memorial books for me. I remember the books being heavy, but today I could barely move them from the cart to the desk! I’m glad I didn’t have to climb up the ladders and pull them off the shelves! The Staff in the reading room was wonderful. The first Memorial I checked No, 14681 stated:

“…27 July 1719 between Robert Johnston formerly of Aghaker in the County of Fermanagh and of Unshinagh…County of Leitrim, Gent. of the one part and John Johnston formerly of Aghamuldony in the said County of Fermanagh and now of Aghadanvaney in the County of Leitrim Esq. of the other part

The townland names above are spelled as they were in the Memorial. Remember that spelling doesn’t count…especially with these early Memorials as the standardized name book was not created until the 1830s by John O’Donovan. Even when you go through the Townland Index which is only alphabetized by the first letter of the Townland you’ll find multiple spellings for the same Townland so you have to carefully read each line. Another thing, a Memorial is not a Transcript, but more of an Abstract. The Registry now allows you to take a photo of the Memorial Book after signing a form which states it is for your personal research only. I now have five of these Memorials to transcribe to glean additional tidbits.

All in all a successful day with a lot of work to do.

Happy Hunting!

Tomorrow evening (Friday) at 5 pm Ireland time (that's noon EDT) I'll be joining Fiona Fitzsimons for her weekly Facetime Genealogy Live at Five broadcast from the

Irish Family History Centre.

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