Thursday 30 July 2015

New book: Discover Irish Land Records

Earlier this month, genealogist Chris Paton's latest guide book – Discover Irish Land Records – was published by Unlock the Past.

The softback guide looks at the potential to be found among documents of inheritance, ownership and tenancy, census, valuation and tithes and many other land and property records. At just 58-pages between the covers there is, of course, a limit on how much depth can be included, but Chris has not just skimmed the surface of his theme; he has provided some very useful detail that researchers won't readily find elsewhere, as well as suggesting techniques to ensure they wring every jot of information out of some of the most useful documents and resources.

His coverage of census records is a good such example where he guides the researcher beyond the household schedules to the accompanying Forms N, B1 and B2 for an exploration of the statistical information and 'forensic examination' of the property itself.

Similarly his section on Boundaries and Administrative Areas includes a detailed explanation of Townlands and the resources available to help identify tricky non-standard placenames. He cites an example of his own search for Ballyvoy, a townland named on several records. Townland guides and databases all pointed to the parish of Culfeightrim on the northern Antrim coast, while the family was known to have been located near the village of Doagh in the Antrim parish of Templepatrick.

Chris eventually solved the mystery when he came across a newspaper advert for the sale of a property which referred to 'the townland of Ballyboy, also known as Duncansland... about two miles from the village of Doagh'.

The hard-core of the book looks at tenancy, ownership and valuation records and has particularly strong sections on both Leases and Rentals, again citing personal research examples of the type of content and value of relevant record collections. Probate records, deeds, estate maps and tithe applotment records are covered, as are explanation of terms such as quit rents and ground rents, and a brief glance at the Down Survey of Ireland.

There's also a detailed history of Ireland, suggestions for exploring maps, gazeteers, directories and parish histories, guidance on land measurements and currency, a three-page index, a list of useful addresses and some recommended reading, so the guidebook certainly has some breadth.

While I find the font size far too small for comfortable reading, I'm happy to recommend Discover Irish Land Records as a handy introduction and well-organised reference book for researchers moving into the intermediate stages of their family history studies. Many new avenues of research will be opened up to them through its pages.

Published by Unlock the Past. ISBN 978 1 925323 24 5. Available from Gould Genealogy in Australia (Aust$15.99), MyHistory in the UK (£7.50), and other online bookstores.