More About Irish Estate Records

Most of our Irish ancestors were tenant farmers, leasing plots directly from the landowner or sub-leasing from another Irishman. Land records are a good source for family history information, even if our ancestors didn’t own real property in Ireland. 

Noble families and Church of Ireland clergy were the major Irish landowners prior to the 20th century. Tom Rice shared good information about land ownership and estate records in his class last Saturday. He explained how estate papers may include details about leases, tenants, evictions, emigration, and other economic and social conditions.

Of course, the key is knowing the name of the townland where your ancestor lived.  If you know the townland, Griffiths’ Valuation will help you identify the landowner (at the time of the valuation). If you’re lucky enough to have ancestors from Connacht or Munster, you may find information on the Landed Estates Database. The website,, states:

“The Landed Estates Web site, a searchable, online database of all Landed Estates in Connacht and Munster, maintained by the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies, National University of Ireland (NUI), Galway.

The Landed Estates Database provides a comprehensive and integrated resource guide to landed estates and historic houses in Connacht and Munster, c. 1700-1914. The aim of this guide is to assist and support researchers working on the social, economic, political and cultural history of Connacht and Munster from c.1700 to 1914.”

My husband’s Hickey ancestors came from Cahernahallia, in county Tipperary. Although the Hickeys had left Ireland before Griffiths’ Valuation, the owner of Cahernahallia at the time of the valuation was Viscount Lismore. (His original family name was O’Callaghan.) In the 1870s Viscount Lismore owned 34,945 acres in county Tipperary, 6,067 acres in county Cork and 1,194 acres in county Limerick. The NUI landed estates website provides summary information about the estate and directs researchers to archival sources. A fascinating site!

“Repositories”  was the theme of the October 2013 issue of The Septs. As always, the journal included several interesting articles, e.g., Fiona Fitzsimons’ report on “Irish Family History – Research Online.” She gave tips about “Landed Estate Court Rentals,” which some professional genealogists call ” the ‘secret-hero’ of Irish genealogy.” According to Fitzsimons, is the only online source for this information. The key to finding President Obama’s Irish ancestors was found in the Landed Estate Court Rentals! The “Rentals” are actually sales brochures for properties owned by bankrupt estates which were being sold by the government after the Famine.  Again, sometimes these estate records list tenants and the terms of their leases, which is what identified critical relationships in the Obama ancestral family.

The January 2014 issue of The Septs will feature additional articles about estate-related records, how to find your ancestor’s estate, and how to locate these records. Be sure your IGSI membership is up-to-date so you receive your issue!

Back issues of The Septs can be viewed online by IGSI members (or purchased for $10 per issue through the IGSI bookstore). See the website for more details:

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