Monday, 19 June 2017

The spelling of Irish townlands in deeds

I've been doing quite a bit of personal research over the last few weeks using the Irish Registry of Deeds records which are now available on FamilySearch at They are a fascinating resource, and although I have occasionally used the microfilm copies of the records in the past at PRONI in Belfast, the digitised returns make research much easier, with the records themselves much easier to read off a screen than on a microfilm reader!

Although some deeds have been indexed by the ongoing Registry of Deeds project at, the majority have not, and you need to work through the land indexes or name indexes manually, before consulting the relevant deeds memorials. Amongst my latest finds, I've discovered an original deed recorded by the Irish Land Commission noting the purchase of Killonerry Farm, Co. Kilkenny, by my wife's widowed great great grandmother Bridget Prendergast from the Earl of Bessborough in May 1892. The mortgage was for £2650, on interest of 'three and one eighth per cent', to be paid back over 49 years. The record also notes that the farm had previously been leased from the Earl's estate by her husband Thomas Prendergast in May 1868 for 31 years, although additional evidence from other sources (the Munster Express, and tithe records) confirms the family had held the property from much earlier in the 1820s.

I've written a detailed article on how to use the online version of these records for a forthcoming edition of Your Family History magazine, but I thought I would flag up something here that might help with Irish research across the board, and that is the complete lack of standardisation in Irish townland names that you might come across. Another branch of my wife's family also had a farm in a separate townland called Tybroughney, in Co. Kilkenny. When you Google the name 'Tybroughney' today, the returns will usually add the phrase 'statutory spelling Tibberaghny (Irish: Tiobra Fhachna)'. But don't for one moment think that that means there were two spelling variants for Tybroughney. In fact, if you look through the land index for the register of deeds, this is the sort of response you might get for various placenames..!

This is a short list from one of the compiled indexes, but there are other indexed years where there are even more variants listed for Tybroughney - the moral of the story here is to think laterally about the spelling of Irish place names when you go looking in the records, especially those for which they can't even agree on the spelling today!


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