Each record contains both a transcript and an image of the original. The information contained varies but you could find out the following about your ancestor:
Name of tenant
The image frequently gives further details so don’t forget to look there as well. There are usually several images in each record. Again the information can vary depending on the type of record but you could find out the following about your ancestor:
Name of landlord
Details of lease or tenancy (including, in the case of leases, the names of other family members covered by the lease)
Details of rent paid
Terms of lease
Description of the property
Map of the location
There are 494,616 records covering estates in almost every county of Ireland.
Many of the landed estates in Ireland were in serious financial difficulties by the time of the Famine in the mid 19th Century. So-called “encumbered estates” had financial and legal obligations that had to be paid out each year by the land owner. These were generally mortgages or “portions” portions owing to family members through marriage settlements or wills of previous generations. These payments all had to be made before the owner or occupier could take their own income from the estate.
Rental and sale prices of land plummeted during the Famine and for many landowners or occupiers the financial demands of the estate outstripped the income forcing them into bankruptcy. Many did not even have the option to sell the land due to these encumbered obligations.
In 1848 and 1849 two Encumbered Estates Acts were passed to make the sale of these estates possible. Under the second act an Encumbered Estates Court was established, which enabled the state to take ownership of these properties and sell them on with a parliamentary title, free from the threat of contested ownership.
The Encumbered Estates Court was established in 1849. In 1852, it was replaced by the Landed Estates Courts, which was itself superseded in 1877 by the Land Judges Court, part of the Chancery Division of the High Court. Although there were some differences in the powers of these courts, their principal function remained the same, to sell off insolvent estates.
From a genealogical perspective the Rentals are a valuable resource as many of the original estate records were no longer needed once the purchase had been made from the Land Courts and so no longer survive. The Land Courts system was the first significant step towards the break-up of the old estates in Ireland.
The Rentals are essentially sale catalogues, which were circulated to prospective purchasers in advance of the sale. They were compiled, like any modern estate agent’s brochure, to attract a sale and to give information about the lot in a clear uniform manner. The Land Courts sold estates in every county in Ireland so the Rentals as a whole cover large parts of the country. They cover urban as well as rural property.
Where the tenant held a long term lease, rather than a yearly tenancy, the record will also include the names of all lives contracted for (usually three) as well specifying whether any of those named were still alive at the time of the sale. This means that the information you can find can go back as far as the 18th century.
Some of the tenancy agreements listed have special terms that are worth noting. For example a lease of a nominal £2 a year might be granted forever on the condition that the leaseholder started and maintained a school. Other nominal rents were granted for religious leases.
Some of the terms you will see in the image of the original document are not in common usage today so below is a brief explanation:
Gale days – days on which rent is payable (usually twice a year)
Denominations – The name or address of the property
The dimensions of a rental property are given in Acres, Roods and Perches. A perch measured 30 ¼ square yards, a rood was equal to 40 perches and an acre was equal to 4 roods.
Rents are given in pounds, shillings and pence. A pound was made up of 20 shillings. A shilling was made up of 12 pence. A penny is represented with a “d” in abbreviation of the Roman denarius.
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