Registry of Deeds


TYPES OF TRANSACTION



The transactions in the Registry fall into a number of broad classes. These are:-

Leases
Marriage Settlements
Mortgages
Bills of Discovery
Wills
Rent Charges


Leases

By far the most common of the records in the Registry, leases could run for any term between 1 and 999 years, could depend on the lives of a number of persons named in the document or could be a mixture of the two, lasting three lives or sixty years, whichever was longer. Only leases for more than three years could be registered. The most genealogically useful information in such leases is the lives they mention. The choice of lives generally rested with the lessee or grantee, and in most cases those chosen were related. Often the names and ages of the grantee's children appear-an extremely valuable piece of information for families in the eighteenth century. Leases for 900 years, or for lives renewable in perpetuity, were much more common in Ireland than elsewhere and amounted to a permanent transfer of the property, although the grantor remained the nominal owner. As might be imagined, such leases provided a rich basis for legal disputes.



Marriage Settlements

Any form of pre-nuptial property agreement between the families of the prospective bride and groom was known as a 'marriage settlement', or as 'marriage articles'. A variety of transactions can therefore be classed in this way. What they have in common is their aim to provide security, to women in particular: as married women could hold no property in their own right, it was common practice for the dowry to be granted to trustees rather than directly to the future husband, which allowed the women some degree of independence. It was also common for the family of the prospective husband, or the husband himself, to be granted an annuity out of the income of his land to the future wife and children should he predecease them. The information given in settlements varies, but in general it should at least include the names, addresses and occupations of the bride, groom and bride's father. In addition, other relatives- brothers, uncles etc.-may also put in an appearance. For obvious reasons, marriage settlements are among the most useful of the records held in the Registry. The period during which they were most commonly registered appears to have been the three decades from 1790 to 1820. When searching the Grantors Indexes for them it should be remembered that they are not always indicated as such and that the formal grantor may be a member of either family, making it necessary to search under both surnames.

Mortgages

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, mortgages were very commonly used as a form of investment on the one hand and as a way of raising short-term cash on the other. Generally they do not provide a great deal of family information, but as they were an endless source of legal disputes they form a disproportionate number of the deeds registered. It was quite common for mortgages to be passed on to third or fourth parties, each hoping to make money, so the resulting deeds can be very complicated.

Bills of Discovery

Under the Penal Laws, Catholics were not allowed to possess more than a very limited amount of land, and a Protestant who discovered a Catholic in possession of more than the permitted amount could file a bill of discovery to claim it. In practice, most bills appear to have been filed by Protestant friends of Catholic landowners to pre-empt hostile discovery and as a means of allowing them to remain in effectual possession. Registered bills are not common, but they are extremely interesting, both genealogically and historically.

Wills

Only those wills likely to be contested legally were registered, in other words those that omitted someone-almost certainly a family member who might have a legitimate claim. Abstracts of the personal and geographical information in all the wills registered between 1708 and 1832 have been published in P.B. Phair and E. Ellis (eds.), Abstracts of Wills at the Registry of Deeds (3 vols., Dublin: imc, 1954-88), online at www.irishmanuscripts.ie. The full provisions of the wills are to be found only in the original memorials.

Rent Charges

These were annual charges of a fixed sum payable out of the revenue generated by nominated lands. They were used to provide for family members in straitened circumstances or to pay off debts or mortgages in instalments. Once made, they could be transferred to others and were valuable assets in their own right. Depending on the terms, they can provide useful insights into family relationships and family fortunes.

Other, miscellaneous classes of deed also appear in the Registry of Deeds. As outlined above, the only common feature is that they record a property transaction of some description; any family information they may contain is a matter of luck.


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