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Landed Estate Courts

By the end of the famine, many of the estates in Ireland were bankrupt, however, these estates could not be easily sold because they were entailed.  In 1849, the Encumbered Estates Court was set up to assist with the sale of bankrupted estates.  The Court had the ability to sell the estate, pay off creditors, and clear the title for new owners.  The Encumbered Estates Court gave way to the Landed Estate Courts in the 1850s.  

   If your ancestor was on one of the estates affected by the Landed Estates, you may be able to find additional information about their lease. As part of the process for selling off these estates, a catalog was created regarding the property.  Think about selling your house…the real estate agent takes pictures and creates a listing explaining the features of your house.  In much the same way, the catalogues contained a listing of all of the tenants of the estate, a description of the holding and their tenure (how they held the land).  The database for these records is at FindMyPast.

Patrick Thompson and Bryan Moughty occupy #5 in Ballinahinch, Longford. Their rent is due on the 25 of March and the 29th of September; their rent is £13 4s. 4d. and their acreage is 25 A. 0 R. 34 P. They hold their land year to year, determined 29 September each year. (Note: This is in 1871 and is the same property listed in Griffith’s Valuation in 1854)

   The majority of our ancestors probably held their land with a year to year lease, but occasionally  you’ll find someone who held their property on a “lease for lives.”  When the lease was signed, it named (usually) three people and the lease was then in effect until the last of the people named had died. The names chosen on the lease would typically be children or even grandchildren.  The court records cover the period from 1850 to 1885, but if you find a lease for lives, it may provide family information back into the 18th century.  

    The example above is an estate sale in 1851. Robert, Samuel and Thomas, the original lease holders are all dead (per the listing as “Representative of”).   Notice that the original lease was signed in 1791 for three lives, two of whom are still living…Robert and Thomas on both.  It would appear that there is a relationship between all of these individuals since the “lives” are the same for both of the original lease holders.  These leases will not expire until both Robert and Thomas have died.


   So what is your strategy from here?  I would check on church records to see if they exist for this time and place.  Can you find baptismal records for Robert and Thomas with a father’s name of Robert, Samuel or Thomas?  Marriages for any of them?  I would move back to the Tithe Applotment (1821-1837) to see who was listed as the occupier.  Since this is Monaghan, the Landed Estate Court document (1851) predates Griffith’s (1859-1861) so check for the occupancy of the property in Griffith’s and follow it through the Revision Books if possible.  Based on the names in Griffith’s, look for birth, death or marriage records after 1864.  Check the 1901 and 1911 census for families who might still be on the property.  Finally, research the landlord to find out if there are other estate records manuscripts that might provide further information.

   Just so you’re not confused, if you see a lease for lives such as this one…

it doesn’t mean you are related to the royal family.  As people started to emigrate, it became more difficult to prove who was still alive, “Sure, isn’t Uncle Mike still alive and well in America.”  So in later years the practice  became naming well known individuals, whose deaths would not go unnoticed. 

   The National University of Ireland at Galway (NUI Galway) has created a wonderful database of Landed Estates in Connacht and Munster.  You can search by the name of the estate, the name of the landlord, or the name of the house. Sometimes you’ll have a title, such as Earl of Lucan listed in Griffith’s and you’ll need to find the family name.  This database is a great place to find that information. In this case, the family name was Bingham (who was actually the second Earls of Lucan) and they were absentee landlords.  You might also find the Immediate Lessor listed as the estate agent, and those names are also frequently listed in this database.  

From here, I would go to the Sources database at the National Library of Ireland.  It is a database of manuscript, journals and books located in repositories all over Ireland and England. Searching “Bingham” I find multiple documents, maps, manuscripts, journal articles, all of which might provide additional background information on the lives of ancestors living on one of his estates.  

   Hopefully you can see that the process of research takes you from one group of records to another.  Like everything in Ireland, it is all dependent on time and place, but this is another useful record source to check.

   Happy Hunting.

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