Colonial Scots-Irish Immigrants:
By Kyle J. Betit
Records generated by estate owners can be particularly useful for tracing the Scots-Irish, although a location in Ireland must usually already be known or suspected to access these records. Prior to the advent of surviving church registers, estate papers can be among the only records of tenant farmers left to the family historian. In some cases, they even indicate information about tenants emigrating.
Many Scots-Irish tenants had "leases of lives," whereby they held land during the natural lives of several indicated persons. The large-scale emigration of Scots-Irish tenants led to difficulties in determining if the persons listed in the leases were still living or dead. In some cases, this produced particularly helpful references in estate papers. For example, evidence may have been produced about whether an emigrant (named as a "life" in a "lease of lives") was alive or dead. Background on this subject is given in P. Roebuck's article, "The Lives Lease System and Emigration from Ulster: An Example from Montgomery County, Pennsylvania" in Ulster Genealogical and Historical Guild Newsletter.
Estate records from Ulster counties can be found in repositories in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The largest number are at the PRONI, which published an inventory: Guide to Landed Estate Records. The FHL has microfilm copies of several PRONI estate record collections.
The National Archives and the National Library of Ireland also have some estate papers for Ulster counties (including those now in Northern Ireland) that the PRONI does not have. The Irish Genealogical Society International is producing (in conjunction with the Genealogical Office in Dublin) inventories of estate papers at the National Archives and the National Library. To this date, they have produced inventories for the Ulster counties of Armagh, Cavan, Donegal, Fermanagh, Monaghan, and Tyrone. Richard Hayes, in Manuscript Guide to the History of Irish Civilisation, also includes references to estate papers in various repositories.
For additional information on estate records, refer to the chapter "Estate Records" in Betit and Radford's Ireland: A Genealogical Guide for North Americans; and to David E. Rencher's article, "Irish Estate Records," The Irish At Home and Abroad 1 (Spring 1994): 1-5.