Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Tuesday's Tips: Sources you may have overlooked: Irish Manuscripts

Although many of us who are obsessed with Irish family history and genealogy might daydream about 15th century records of birth, 16th century marriage documents, and fully detailed pre-20th century census records — fully digitized and all freely available online too — we can't always get what we want.

Since we can't always get what we want, we have to want what we can get. To that end, on today's Tuesday's Tips, I am recommending a source which is fully digitized, available online and free to access. The source is The Irish Manuscripts Commission.

The mandate of the Irish Manuscripts Commission is "to promote access to and dissemination of primary sources for Irish history and culture". The commission is actively engaged in a programme of digitization of their back list of publications, many of which are now out of print. Each manuscript opens up with a search box into which you can plug any search term you wish.

The manuscripts in this collection are of major genealogical import, because they include information about individuals of all ranks and social classes, even the lowest of the tenancy. I have posted a couple of images to give you a taste of the kind of information you might find in these manuscripts. 

The Inchiquin Manuscripts

This volume holds papers calendared from the estate and family of the O’Briens, who were the Earls of Inchiquin, the Earls of Thomond and — from 1855 — the Barons Inchiquin. It covers the period from the 16th century through to the 19th century. This will be of particular interest to Irish family history researchers with Brien/O'Brien connections in County Clare — where the first Earl held an estate of over 40,000 acres — as well as County Limerick and County Cork. Among the gems in this volume are details about leases & other deeds, wills & administrations, marriage settlements, and rentals & accounts. Some of the deeds are transcribed in the original Latin. This volume also includes an index of persons mentioned in the volume, as well as an index of places.

Click on THIS LINK to access this manuscript volume.

Click on --> The Landed Estates Database for information about properties connected to the Earls of Inchiquin.

The Kenmare Manuscripts

These manuscripts comprise the family papers and manuscripts of the Earl of Kenmare. Of particular interest to the Irish family history researcher may be the rental ledgers and estate account books. Also included in the transcription are a number of leases, conveyances, and letters which may be of interest. For example, a series of letters dating to 1730/31 from Daniel Cronin, an agent for the Kenmare Estate in the period, describes the condition of the estate, and makes mention of many local residents. Unfortunately, the editor of this volume, Edward MacLysaght, sometimes describes the content of various letters rather than simply transcribing them.

Some of the entries included from the Viscount Kenmare's Book of Observations make for an interesting read because he offers opinions about his tenants. Of one of his tenants in Clounteens, County Limerick, the Viscount observes, "The tenant, Derby Cronin, [is] very backward in paying his rent, and very low in his circumstances in great measure by his own default and mismanagement".

Click on THIS LINK to access this manuscript volume

Click on --> The Landed Estates Database for information about properties connected to the Earl of Kenmare, as well as an extensive listing of other sources.

A snippet from a transcribed rental ledger, dated May 1705 - May 1706.
The Calendar of Ormond Deeds

The full title of this manuscript is 'The Calendar of Ormond Deeds: Being the Mediaeval Documents Preserved at Kilkenny Castle'. The manuscripts transcribed in these volumes date from the 12th century to the 17th century, specifically from about 1170 to 1605, and comprise the largest collection of extant Irish Mediaeval records.

From 1932 to 1943, Edmund Curtis, Professor of Modern History at Trinity College, Dublin, focussed his attention on the transcription and publication of the deeds and documents portion of this collection. Included are transcriptions of such documents as wills, letters patent, indentures, and even lists of tenants. Each volume includes an extensive table of contents entitled 'The List of Deeds' which gives a brief synopsis of each individual transcription found within.

Click on THIS LINK to access a list of volumes which comprise this collection.

A snippet of a list of tenants, dated 1595-96.
A 'feoffee' is basically a trustee or agent working for the Earl.


  1. I will certainly check that out. Thanks, Jennifer!

  2. Can these manuscripts be searched by county, townland, surname,...?

  3. Hello Colleen,

    Thanks for your comments. After initiating the documents, you may use any search term you wish in the key words search box. It will give you a list of hits and the pages on which you can find the info. The tables of contents in all the docs (especially the 'List of Deeds' in the Ormond docs) is worth a quick perusal to give you an idea of what is contained within.

    Happy Searching! I hope you strike gold.



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Cheers, Jennifer

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