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The documents generated by the management of landed estates are among the most valuable of records for the local and family historian. Until the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Ulster was a province of landed estates. These estates ranged in size from over 100,000 acres to under 1,000. The best collection of Irish estate papers is housed in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. This comprises not only collections of estate papers for Northern Ireland, but also many for the Republic of Ireland, notably for County Monaghan. A two-volume Guide to Landed Estate Papers is available for consultation in the Public Search Room.

The range of records
Extract from a muster roll of the Abercorn estate, 1745. Copyright of PRONI

Open Enlarged Version  Some categories of estate papers are more useful to genealogists than others. Title deeds are concerned with the legal ownership of an estate, and are generally of limited value to genealogists. The same can be said of mortgages. Wills and marriage settlements usually refer only to the members of the landowner's family. However, the following documents can all be extremely useful to those carrying out research.

Rentals
Rentals, rent rolls or rent books record rent payments made by a tenant to his landlord. The information provided will usually be limited to the name of the tenant, the extent and location of his holding and the rent payable by him in a certain year.

Leases
A lease granted by a landlord to a tenant gave him the right to occupy the property for a specific period of time. A lease was usually for a term of years, 21 or 31 being quite common, but leases for three lives were in fairly widespread use. A three-life lease expired when all the three persons named in the lease died.

Lease books
Lease books can be among the most useful of estate papers as far as genealogy is concerned. They record in condensed form the same sort of information contained in the original leases, such as the name of the lessee, the location and extent of the holding and the rent due.

Maps

Extract from a volume of maps of the Conyngham estate, Springhill, 1722. Copyright of PRONI

Open Enlarged Version Maps form an important element in most estate collections. These show the property of the landlord, who employed a surveyor to illustrate the extent of his land and the more important features on his estate.



Correspondence
The correspondence between a landlord and his agent can be of immense genealogical value. Not only does it include details of the day-to-day running of the estate, but mention is often made of those who worked on the estate.