Tuesday, June 11, 2013


It is official. I am a total geek.

Years ago, an old friend observed, while we were quaffing a beer or three, that if you asked most people how many cows were in the field across the road, they would glance up and say: Three, or twelve – depending on how many they saw. I, on the other hand, would spend the next month examining the nature of the grass, the cow pies, the angle of the hoof prints – in short, the whole nine yards. My answer then would be that there were seven mature cows, two yearlings and three calves. Half of them had issues with their bowels, and one had an infected hoof.

To the charge of being a geek, I plead guilty as charged. Last week I uploaded more than 300 pages of notes on deeds and such that I had transcribed from the Deeds Registry, and other sources. Now that is arcane, even for me. Yet it is amazing material when you know how to use it.

Occasionally, you get a window into events such as the legal arrangements made between Thomas and Mary Jackson, and John Halpin - a comb maker, because the Jackson's marriage had come asunder in an time before divorce was an option. I have highlighted the interesting parts in blue:

1788 Jun 24 ROD 402-191-264706
Btw Thomas JACKSON of Hammond Lane Co & City of Dublin of the 1st part & Mary JACKSON his wife of 2nd pt and John HALPIN of the City of Dublin Combmaker and Edward BROOK of said City gent of the 3rd pt Reciting that certain Differences & disagreements had arisen and were then subsisting  between the said Thomas JACKSON and Mary JACKSON his wife and that in order to put an end to same they had mutually agreed to live separate from each other and that the said  Thomas JACKSON by virtue of the Deed of Settlement in said Deed  [?] was seized and possessed of among other houses the Premises in said Deed party recited  and herein after mentioned the said Thomas JACKSON to provide a separate Maintenance & provision for said Mary JACKSON during such time as she should live separate from her  said husband by said deed Did Grant bargain sell release and confirm unto the said John HALPEN and Edward BROOK in their actual position then being by virtue of the Bargain & Sale therein mentioned in trust for the sole use of Mary JACKSON One Amount or Clear Yearly Rent charge of £30… payable out of… dwelling House Assuage or Tenement… formerly in possession of  Thomas LEWIS but now in possession of John BUTLER Baker situate lying or being in the corner or front of Hammond Lane and Pudding otherwise Lincoln Lane in Co 7 City Dublin… that Thomas JACKSON during such time as said Mary JACKSON should live separate  [?] not under any pretence whatever Call upon or molest the said Mary  in the posson of any place of abode she might hereafter Occupy or cause her to be disturbed therein in like Manner that said Mary should not Molest or disturb the said Thomas JACKSON his children or family or procure it to [leedom] & that in case the said Thomas JACKSON should at any time thereafter be obliged to pay or that he should be sued for a Debt which the said Mary should Contract for her own use & account then it should be lawful for said Thomas JACKSON to enter  unto the said premises and recover the full amount of said debt and costs  & also that the said Thomas JACKSON should permit the said Mary JACKSON to have receive take away carry & remove all wearing apparel of what kind soever with the several articles of household Furniture and other matters mentioned in the schedule of deed Indorsed and to dispose  of the same as she think proper….

But, back to the geekdom part of this. A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Nick Reddan from Australia. Four dozen volunteers have been indexing and posting notes of deeds on his site for the past several years. One of these researchers, Roz McCutcheon, has indexed and uploaded more than 20,000 of them herself. I am a mere trifler in this crowd. As of June 1st, there were 113,623 indexed deeds, but by the time you read this, the total will definitely be higher.

Sharon & Nick at The Church Restaurant, Dublin, in 2011. 
Photo credit: Peter McWilliams.
PS - Check out the Fish and Chips. Excellent.
 The genius of Nick’s index is that you can often find people who were not only lessees or lessors, but also neighbours, witnesses, or relations. No other index gets even close. It is impossible to underestimate how much place matters in Irish history. When James Joyce wrote A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man the central character wrote down:

Stephen Dedalus
Class of Elements
Congowes Wood College
County Kildare
The World
The Universe

For Deeds Registry work, one would need to add:

Naas North
County Kildare

Most original deeds were in the possession of the parties but some have survived  in solicitors and private estate collections. The originals of registered memorials in the Registry of Deeds have the old  seals and signatures. Copies were handwritten in parchment books -known as tombstones on account of their weight - and are available for perusal in the Deeds Registry Office There is a sensory pleasure in searching through them personally. The weight of the paper, the smell of it. There are also two indexes to these tombstones:
  • The NAME INDEX where memorials are indexed under the name of the lessor (the person who held title to the property), NOT the lessee. NOTE: There is no index of lessees.
  • The TOWNLAND INDEX which is the more challenging of the two. Many of these books are stained, and the writing can be so cramped that it is a challenge to decode.
Other tips that I have learned over the years are:
  • Not everyone gets mentioned in memorials or deeds. Many people held leases that flew beneath the radar. Many did not have leases.
  • Unless the person you are seeking was reasonably wealthy, odds are that they were the lessee, not the owner, so the likely landlord’s name is the name to start with.
  • If you have the name of a wife, check her out. Often marriage agreements are under her father’s or brother’s names.
  • Look at the end of the book. Sometimes entries are posted that did not fit under the letter they are supposed to be under.
  • NOTE:You can order colour photocopies from the Registry of Deeds for €20 - either on-line or in person, as long as you have the reference number.. 
If you cannot get to the Registry Office in Dublin, but have a reference for a memorial, then try your luck at Nick Reddan’s site, and keep checking back. New ones are added all the time. His instructions are pretty clear. One trick I can add is whenever I have a memorial number, but nothing else, is that I go to the page where he has the index by memorial, click on the hyperlink that takes me to the page with the appropriate page-range, and then use the find feature in my browser to hone in on the specific number I am seeking. It does speed things up a bit.

The deeds on my site have a different focus in mind than his site. I am collecting notes on memorial that are likely interconnected with the families that I am researching. If you find one that looks like a slam dunk for your own research, then a site search of my web page may turn up something else of interest. The legal intricacies are of less interest to me than the family information, so, if you do find an entry on my site that interests you, it is also worth checking on Nick’s site. 

Even better, book a flight to Ireland. You won’t regret it.

1 comment:

  1. I would love nothing better than to book a flight to Ireland, particularly, Northern Ireland where I presume my 4th great grandparents resided. this would have been before 1772 and the area I am guessing that they lived was in the same area that the Rev. William Martin preached. Several townslands play into the location of my ancestors, if in fact, they were part of his flock or not. William Greg and Jane, his wife, sailed with the Rev, in Oct. 1772, along with 4 other immigrant ships to the new land, U.S.A. and landed in Charleston, S.C. where William was granted 150 acres of land on Cannon's creek which was an off shoot of the Broad river which was in what is now Newberry co.
    On the ship with William and Jane was a John Greg. In a letter of appreciation to the Rev. and capt. Gillis, John and William signed. They may have been illiterate and someone signed for them but their last name was spelled Greg. There was also a Jane, and Mary who was on the same ship. the Lord Dunluce that sailed from Larne to South Carolina. I do not know the relationship to my William of either John, Mary or Jane Greg. They all received land near each other.
    so, I am at a loss at to finding any history of William and Jane Greg in N.I.
    Frances Gragg Warren