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Guest Blog from Polly FitzGerald Kimmitt, CG

Registry of Deeds, Henrietta Street, Dublin

   I’ve been back home for about a week and am still trying to catch up.  Thanks to Polly for sharing her experience at the Registry of Deeds.  You can read the complete story and see the original documents on PollyBlog.

   I was privileged to take part in Donna’s research tour to Dublin, and thank her for asking me to guest blog here. While I enjoyed the National Library and National Archives, and found some great records at the Valuation Office, my favorite repository was the Registry of Deeds.

   The Registry of Deeds is not a place where you'd research people of limited finances because of course they didn't own land. For this reason most genealogical researchers never visit because on the whole it was the impoverished who emigrated from Ireland. On this occasion I concentrated on my husband's kin, and was rewarded with some great finds.

   Donna arranged for Paul Gorry, an accredited member of the Association of Professional Genealogists in Ireland, to give me a personalized introduction and that made a huge difference, allowing me to maximize my mere four hours of time there.

   Paul explained that the registration of deeds began in 1708 in direct consequence of the 1704 bill enacted by the Irish Parliament "To Prevent the Further Growth of Popery" which restricted Catholics from purchasing land or taking out leases longer than 31 years. Registration of deeds was not compulsory but was usually undertaken as a safeguard against future litigation or to keep the property out of the hands of Catholics. For this reason you will find more than just land sales. There are also marriage settlements, wills, and of course leases and mortgages.

   These have been transcribed onto huge 23" tall sheets of vellum (elephant folios) bound into really heavy volumes. The originals went home with those party to the transaction, and these copies are called Memorials. 

   There are two sets of indices (also elephant folios)–by grantor and by locality. In the States we are accustomed to using both grantor and grantee indices, so you need to remember that grantors are only one half of the transaction. The records are so very rich in genealogical data, though, that if you can find even one transaction you will probably be rewarded with clues to others.


Reasons to start with the grantor index:

  • Your ancestor had an uncommon name.

  • Your ancestor was extremely wealthy and probably held property in more than one place

  • You do not know where they owned land

  • You know the townland and it begins with Bally... or Kil... or another common prefix: this means you’ll have lots of townlands to wade through.

Reasons to start with the townland index:

  • Your ancestor’s surname is very common

  • Your ancestor’s name came be spelled a million different ways

  • Townlands are small and you can see the interrelationship with neighbors, thereby adding to your FAN (Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) club.

   To begin researching in the townland index you first must consult a typed up guide to the indices. The guide lists which number volume you need to consult to find the index for a certain county in a certain time period. The counties are then subdivided into baronies, so be sure you know the Barony, also.

   So for Co. Kilkenny, for instance, I noted that the index for 1708-1738 was in volume 28. For Co. Cavan in the same time period it was in volume 82.

   From the typescript guide I noted the volume number of every index volume from 1708 to 1859, a total of 12. One great clue that Paul gave me was that you also have to remember to search under “No Barony” because if the Barony wasn’t known or noted, it would be indexed there! So that gave me another bunch of volumes.


   I had done my homework by researching the townland, barony and county for each ancestor, so I was able to jump right in with Richard Stephens in Crossdoney, Co. Cavan. I figured Stephens is pretty common and Crossdoney pretty small, so I began in the townlands index. Even so, there were 21 pages of townlands beginning with C in County Cavan, so it was slow slogging. The light brown ink combined with very low lighting made it tough on my eyes. 

   Obviously in four hours you can’t do much, so looking back on it I’m quite pleased at how much I grabbed. I found a couple of marriage settlements and several leases and made use of the indices to take down items to order later.

   From the indices you obtain a volume and page number then haul out the actual memorial volume you want. The volumes are so huge you can't even get close to the top of the page (especially if you’re short!), so bring good reading (or distance) glasses! And don't wear your best clothes because you'll get dusty and grimy. Because they do not allow photography, it's either transcribe (pencil only) at lightening speed, or request a copy. The cost is a high €20, so it not a viable way to obtain large amounts of information, but it's cheaper than flying to Dublin! I ordered just one so that I could see how they went about it. It took 8 days to arrive by regular mail. I have transcribed it on my own blog at It has so many names, relationships, occupations, previous transactions, references to wills and deaths, and more. It’s just incredible!

   These records are also available on microfilm at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. But there is nothing like visiting a repository to thoroughly understand the record group, see how they are physically organized and indexed, and just generally get a feel for them as a whole. I am very grateful to Donna and Paul for showing me around.

   Thanks, Polly!

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