Land records

This guide was last updated in 2009

The lack of 19th century census returns has meant that land records have taken on increased importance in the search for Irish ancestors.

The most important compilation is Griffith’s Primary Valuations of Ireland (1848-1864), which lists every landlord and tenant in Ireland during this time. Arranged by county, and sub-divided into Poor Law Union, barony, parish and townland, Griffiths enables you to locate your ancestor and the property they owned or leased. Griffith’s can be found at the National Archives, National Library, PRONI, or the Family History Centre in London. An index to Griffith’s can also be searched online at www.irishorigins.com.

The Valuation Office holds surveys of land for the Republic of Ireland from 1850 up to the present day, and records of changes in ownership and tenancy. Once you have located your ancestor in Griffith’s, these records can provide details of owners and occupiers of your ancestor’s property spanning more than 150 years.

All changes were dated, helping you identify dates of death or migration, and the sale of the property. Searches can be undertaken in person, or by application in writing. For Northern Ireland property, PRONI holds changes in ownership/tenancy from 1864 to around 1929, and from 1935 onwards. These can be searched in person.

The Registry of Deeds is a unique resource for genealogical research. Established by the Registry of Deeds Act 1707, a penal law preventing Catholics from owning leases of land for more than 31 years, the Registry holds more than five million memorials (summaries of deeds) recording conveyances, leases, mortgages and marriage settlement deeds from 1708 to the present day. Many of the memorials pre-date the Irish Land Registry records by 200 years (the Land Registry was established in 1891).

While the Registry initially recorded deeds involving Protestants, the relaxation of penal laws in the 1790s meant that deeds made between Catholics were registered too. Although the registration was voluntary, the Registry can help locate memorials signed by your ancestors and identify the location of their property during the 18th century. Indexes to the Registry of Deeds are also available on microfilm at the Family History Centre in London.

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