Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Registry of Deeds in Ireland

You may not have heard about the Registry of Deeds in Dublin, but if you are interested in Irish research then you should know about it. 

The Registry of Deeds was established in 1708 to allow people to record deeds and other documents relating to land transfers. A major driver in its establishment was to enforce the laws that prohibited Catholics from owning land or entering into leases longer than 31 years. It was never compulsory to register a deed, so not all transactions are recorded, but by 1833 when the numbering system changed, over 600,000 documents had been recorded. 

Tombstone Books in the Registry of Deeds.
Photo Credit: Nick Reddan (with permission) 
Memorials or synopsises of deeds and other documents were recorded in large books known as memorial books or tombstone books. They are not true copies of the original document, but contain all relevant information relating to the land transaction or transfer. Amongst the documents recorded are land sales, leases, mortgages, marriage settlements and even wills. Anything that might relate to land could be included. The wills are a particularly valuable inclusion because all the original wills were destroyed in the fire in the Four Courts in Dublin in 1922 and this may be the only source of the information included in a will. 

Among the things you might discover that will help you build your family tree include names and relationships, ages and death dates, wives' maiden names, and residences. 

Example of a page from one of the
Tombstone Books

Two sets of indexes were created to allow access to the Deeds. The first is the Grantor Index. The name of the primary grantor, and occasionally a second grantor, can be used as a finding aid. It does not always include all grantors, and it never indexes the grantees. The second index is the Land or Place Index which includes the location as well as listing the primary grantor. Later versions of these particular indexes also include the name of the primary grantee. Thus it is worth working through both sets of indexes to find any memorials that might be of interest. These indexes will give you the information you need to look through the books of deeds to find the memorial of interest. 

So who would register a document? It was not only wealthy landlords, but can even be some of the most humble tenants, though generally it will be the middle class and above. Merchants were very well represented amongst those registering documents, if only because a registered deed took precedence over an unregistered one if there was any dispute. In theory, Catholics would not be able to register a deed unless it was a lease for less than 31 years, but I have seen some leases registered for Catholics for longer periods. As there was a cost of registration the humble labourer or small holder would probably not register one. However, they might still be mentioned, particularly in relation to identifying the location of a property ("north of the stream and west of Patrick Murphy's cottage"). 

 As mentioned, it might be only the primary grantor and primary grantee that listed in the indexes. Yet a deed can list many, many more names. One deed is known to list 196 names! In order to try and slowly build up a full index to all the names in the deeds, the Registry of Deeds Index Project website has been set up (http://irishdeedsindex.net). This free site allows you to search deeds that have been indexed and to enter details of deeds you have found yourself. 

The Registry of Deeds Index Project homepage (http://irishdeedsindex.net). 


It is easy now to access the indexes and deeds. Familysearch (http://familysearch,org) have filmed all the Indexes and Tombstone Books, and most of them have been digitised and are available online for free. They are not indexed, and have to be accessed via the catalog, but there are links direct to them on the Index Project site mentioned above. 

If you have Irish ancestors, spend some time looking for them in the Registry of Deeds.

This is an updated version of a blog post that originally appeared in The In-Depth Genealogist blog in 2018

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Definition Day - The Manor

 * This is part of an occasional series where I explain certain terms that you might come across when studying English history or genealogy.

A Generic Medieval Manor. 
William R. Shepherd, Historical Atlas,
1923 (Public domain)


A Manor (from the Latin manerium) was the basic social and economic unit of society in England from before the Norman Conquest. They do not have a specific date when they ceased to play an important role as it varied from manor to manor, but it was often well into the 17th and 18th centuries, though some manors continued to hold manorial courts into the 19th and 20th centuries.

A manor does not map onto a parish or village: it might cover several parishes, or only part of one parish, or part of one parish and part, or all, of other parishes. Neither does it map onto a village. A manor might consist of a village and its lands, or a single village might contain two or more manors, or a manor might cover land in more than one township

Basically, it is the series lands held by one lord, though a lord might hold more than one manor. That lord might be holding the land directly from the crown, or from another tenant-in-chief, or a combination of both. Prior to the dissolution, a manor might have also been held by a religious house, such as an Abbey or Monastery. Are you confused yet?

Manors could vary in size: some were small and some were very large.

The manor consisted of the land the lord retained for his own use, known as his demesne (pronounced “domain”), the land that was tenanted out, the land for common usage, and the waste (areas not cultivated).

There were two main types of tenants. Unfree tenants, or villeins, held their land on condition not only of paying rent, but also of rendering services to the lord, such as working his land for a certain number of days, helping to repair the manorial mill, or providing goods, such as butter, eggs, etc. The other type of tenants were the free tenants, who held their land by payments of rent and sometimes by some services. The types of services in each case depended on the customs of the manor.

Before the Black Death unfree tenants were not able to leave the lord’s land and go and work elsewhere unless the lord gave his permission. Villein tenants came to be known as customary tenants and villein tenure evolved to become copyhold tenure. The tenant’s title was written into the manor court rolls, and he was given a copy as proof of his title. On the death of a tenant the land transfer had to go through the manor courts, and required the payment of a heriot – a money payment or the tenant’s best beast – before the land could be transferred. Other transfers of copyhold land required the payment of an entry fine to the lord. Copyhold tenure was not abolished until 1925.

Free tenants held their land absolutely and were not subject to the customs of the manor. The tenant could devise or sell his land at will (freehold). As with copyhold land, a heriot had to be paid on the death of a tenant to allow the land to be transferred to his heir. The heir of the land, or purchaser if it had been sold, also had to pay a relief to the lord of the manor before taking up the land. The relief was usually a cash payment to the value of one year’s rent.

Little Moreton Hall, a Tudor Manor House
(© Jenny Joyce, 2014)

Over time a third type of tenure evolved, a lease. A lease might be for a single year, for 21 years, or for three lives. The terms by which land was leased out were set by the lord of the manor.

Over time some tenants came to hold different portions of land under each type tenure, though not all manors had all three types of tenure.

There were also other people living on the manor who were not tenants, as they held no land. They were employed as labourers by the lord or a well-off freeholder. They may have had a cottage with a small garden and were called cottars or bordars.

Tenants had certain rights, like pasturing a beast on the common, taking turves of peat from the common, of having access to certain amounts of wood, plants or thatching material. Tenants had to have their grain ground at the Lord’s mill, and had to pay a fee for this.

Each manor had its own customs, which included these rights, but included other matters as well. The rights were upheld by the manor courts, which will be the subject of the next “Definition Day” post.

WARNING: Some land in England was never included in a manor, and only some parts of Wales were subject to the manorial system.


Friday, February 19, 2021

Get your fix of GenFlix

I’ve had a sneak peek at the website for RootsTech Connect, and it’s very impressive.  Just as Netflix lets you binge watch your favourite series like The Crown or Line of Duty (which I am currently watching and highly recommend), RootsTech Connect will let you binge on Genealogy.

So far over 300,000 people from more than 200 countries and territories have registered. And 89% of those have never been to a RootsTech conference before. There will be over 1000 classes and Tips & Tricks sessions. And in case you were wondering,  I am one of those speakers, and will be giving two sessions 10 things you are probably doing wrong with your research and Managing scanned and digital photos.

A lot of people have been asking when the schedule for the conference will become available. But, except for the main stage, there is no schedule.  There are four main sections to the conference:


The Main Stage will have keynotes, sponsor sessions and discovery content (stories, fashion, dance, language, food and much more), and it will run 24 hours a day, with Keynote speakers come from all around the globe, a truly “follow the sun” model. The contents from the first day will be repeated on the second day with the sessions in a different order (to be cater for the fact that there will be people in different time zones), and afterwards the content will be available on demand for a year. The timetable for the main stage is available here.


The Expo Hall (or Exhibition Hall, if you prefer) will have virtual booths for the 20 sponsors and 72 exhibitors. Booths will have product demos, and you will be able to chat to the exhibitors. You will also be able to see the latest innovations at the Innovators Portal, which will be accessed via the Expo Hall. There will also be a Demo Theatre here, which will be familiar to those who have attended a RootsTech in person.

Sessions and Guide Me is where you will find the classes, given by presenters from 51 countries. You can join a chat room about a class, or download a class syllabus (handout) here. You can select classes to be added to your playlist that you can watch at your leisure. There are also guided streams, in case you find it all too overwhelming and don’t know where to start. The full list of talks is available here.

Connect lets you communicate with speakers, other attendees, exhibitors, newly found cousins and more. It will be accessed via a Connect button on the bottom right hand side of your screen. The Ask Us at the top of the chat is where you can ask FamilySearch staff questions about the conference. This is also where you will be able to make contact with your Relatives at RootsTech.

** This is the only section that will only be available while the RootsTech Connect conference is actually live.

And all of this (except Connect) will be available on-demand for a whole year.

So, now for some practicalities.

If you have already registered for the conference you need to know that registration was only so the organizers could send you information about the conference. You should have received one of those communications recently.

You will be able to access the content without having to log in to that account. But you will get more from the conference if you log into your FamilySearch account. By logging in, you will get access to playlist and chat, along with the chance to connect with any of your relatives who are also at RootsTech. These connections will be made based on the FamilySearch Family Tree. If you haven’t got a FamilySearch account they are free and can be set up from https://www.familysearch.org/. If you haven’t added a tree the get cracking!


If you haven't registered yet, don't worry. Just go there on the day and login with your FamilySearch account.

Now, the final and most important part. When does it start.  Well, it the talks all kick off at 9pm Wednesday 24th Feb in Salt Lake City time. That’s 3pm on Thursday 25th of February in Sydney. (If you need help converting to a different time zone check out https://www.timeanddate.com/).

BUT … the Expo Hall opens four hours earlier: that’s 10am on Thursday in Sydney time.

This is going to be a fantastic fully virtual event.

See this episode of Road to RootsTech to get a peak at the site yourself

Monday, November 9, 2020

Have you registered for RootsTech Connect?

 RootsTech in 2021 is going to be a bit different. It even has a different name – RootsTech Connect. In case you have been living in total isolation (hang on, hasn’t everyone?) and haven’t heard the news, RootsTech Connect will be 100% online and 100% free. All you need to do is register at https://www.rootstech.org/. This new online conference will mean no crowds, no jetlag and no expensive hotels.


Since this conference will not involve a trip to Salt Lake City in person, I won’t tease you with pictures of the Family History Library.

As the Expo Hall will be online, pictures of the Expo Hall in previous years won’t be relevant. But rest assured, there will be Exhibitors.

Neither is it relevant to show you pictures of the people I could catch up with at the conference.

So what can I show you to whet your appetite and tempt you to attend RootsTech Connect in 2021?

Well, there will still be speakers.  Even more of them than we’ve had in the past. We have had some really great speakers and really great talks in the past, and this year will be no different.  The speakers haven’t been officially announced yet, but I have heard some whispers and there are some fantastic speakers, many of which have never spoken at RootsTech before.

Myko Clelland - always interesting


A panel from FamilySearch telling us what is new


Nick Barratt - speaker, and MC
for RootsTech London 2019


We might be lucky, and get some new announcements, like that of Ancestry's Genetic Communities back in 2017, or the indexing of the 1940 US census in 2013



And, of course, there will be Keynotes. Saroo Brierly, who was lost as a little boy in India, adopted by a Tasmanian couple, and found his birth family via Google Earth, told a wonderful story. Jake Shimabukuro’s was so proud of his family’s background, but it was his ukulele playing that blew us all away.


Read my reports of their sessions here.

And who could forget Donny Osmond, who appeared at RootsTech in Salt Lake City in 2015 and in London in 2019.



But my absolute favourite keynote was LeVar Burton. I wrote about how his story brought us all to tears here.


Make sure you join the 130,000 who have already registered for RootsTech Connect 2021. Register for free at https://www.rootstech.org/.




Wednesday, September 2, 2020


There is some incredibly EXCITING news about RootsTech 2021.

Ever since the first RootsTech conference in 2011, the conference has been taking place in the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City. Now the Covid virus has forced that to change.

But it’s a good change!  RootsTech 2021 will be a virtual online event called RootsTech Connect. It will have all the keynotes, classes, entertainment and even the Expo Hall of the Salt Lake City, but you will be able to access it all from your own home at your own pace. In 2021 RootsTech will come to YOU.

That means you don’t have to pay for airfare or accommodation. You don’t even have to pay for the conference itself, as it will be completely free! That’s a good price by anyone’s standards.

Having a free online RootsTech means that more people will be able to “attend” than ever before. It opens up the conference to those who can’t travel, those who can’t take time off work, and those who can’t afford to attend an in-person conference.

The conference will take place 25-27 Feb 2021 (not the previously advertised 3-6 Feb for the in-person conference).

Register for free at RootsTech.org



Thursday, August 27, 2020

What's new at FamilySearch


RootsTech 2020 in Salt Lake City saw several announcements about FamilySearch.

What's new on FamilySearch session

The first is that FamilySearch have a big problem: they are filming new resources much faster than they are indexing them, so the backlog is getting greater and greater. They currently have 18 petabytes of records digitised (a petabyte is one thousand million million), which is 72 times bigger than the Library of Congress. Even with crowd-sourcing using their 310,000 indexers who add 2 million new names per day, the gap between the number of images captured and the number indexed is still growing. The problem has been exacerbated by the long time it was taking from photographing a record to getting it online (on average 249 days) as there were lots of things to be checked, metadata to develop and so on.

The really exciting news is that they have developed new processes which means it now takes only 24 hours to get new images online.  These are, of course, not indexed images.  To tackle the indexing bottleneck, FamilySearch is working on having the computer automatically read and index the text, along with relationships mentioned in the record. This is a process called Optical Character Recognition (OCR). FamilySearch are also working on computer handwriting recognition. This is progressing, but is not perfect, and neither is OCR. But now indexers and other users have the opportunity to correct incorrectly indexed entries. Not only does this make the record easier to find, but it teaches the computer about what is correct and what isn’t.

And don’t make the mistake of assuming the records being filmed and indexed are mainly American ones. More of the recent ones are European, but there are also records from South Africa, Asia and South America and even the Republic of the Congo. To find out the what is being added, click on “View the most recently added images” at https://www.familysearch.org/records/images/, or enter a place of interest in the search box on that web page.

These moves will allow for rapid access to content, but indexing volunteers are still needed to index records which will serve to train the computers to get smarter and better at reading the records themselves.

Other announcement made at RootsTech relate to the FamilySearch Family Tree. Below is an interview with Ron Tanner from FamilySearch about the tree.


In summary, new relationship tags have been added. As well as being able to enter a marriage, divorce or annulment for a couple, the couple relationship can be tagged as “Common Law Marriage” or “Lived Together”.  You can also add a relationship fact to say that this couple never had any children.

A key aim for the FamilySearch Family Tree is to reduce the poor changes to the tree. If someone attempts to add a child to a couple that is listed as never having children, the system will generate a warning. Part of the strategy to stop these poor changes is to focus on “Hints” and “Possible Duplicates”, so that FamilySearch only shows those it things it thinks are perfect, not those it thinks “might be possible, but might not be correct”.

There is also a new merge function.  This will result in a multi-stage merge.
  1. Look
  2. Decide what to change
  3. Preview
  4. Give a reason and finish.
The process will give warnings if there are data problems, such as dates (e.g. date of birth) between the potential merge more than about 5 years different, birth and death more than 25 miles apart, and anything else that will create a data problem, such as having someone marry their own parent.

A bit of fun that has been added to FamilySearch is the integration of some of the features from the Discovery Centers into the online FamilySearch site.  These can be accessed from a new menu group at the top of the page entitled “Activities”.  This is only available through the web version, not through the App, though it can be used on a mobile device via a browser.

“My famous relatives” will be added to FamilySearch later this year.



Disclaimer: As a RootsTech Ambassador I received complimentary admission to the event, invitations to some extra events and dinners and a free registration to give to one of my readers. I bore the cost of my return airfares from Australia and paid for my accommodation and meals.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

RootsTech starts tomorrow: A taste from the London conference

Tomorrow is the start of the 10th RootsTech conference in Salt Lake City. While at RootsTech in London during 2019 I had a chance to interview Tamsin Todd & Ben Bennett from Findmypast. Click the image to watch the recording.