The Irish Landed Estates Database and Court Files

The Irish Landed Estates Database

Contributed by Joanne McEntee

One could be forgiven for supposing that the contemporary terms ‘ghost estates’ or ‘abandoned estates’ merely exist as part of the historic nomenclature of the now defunct world of operating Irish landed estates. Yet the ghost estates of yesteryear are now as visible and accessible to the public as their twenty-first century brethren thanks to the recent launch of the Munster Landed Estates Database. Complementing the already existing Connacht database and maintained by the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway, the Landed Estates Database provides a comprehensive and integrated resource guide to landed estates and historic houses in Connacht and Munster, c. 1700-1914. Seeking to assist and support researchers working on social, economic, political and cultural Irish history, this user-friendly website should not confound even those claiming not to be au fait with the rapidly expanding world of digitization. The fact alone that the website records over 4500 houses and provides images for approximately half of those bears testament to the Trojan work of the researchers Marie Boran and Brigid Clesham in undertaking such a monumental task.

For novices to the site, perhaps an exploration of the ‘estate’ option would prove must fruitful starting point. Containing a description of the estate, the names of the families associated with it, the houses it contained, and details of reference sources for more information, for this resource alone the database should be highly commended. Researchers armed only with a surname are also able to complete searches under the ‘families’ option.  Although over 2700 families are included in the database it comes as no surprise that an overlapping of surnames frequently occurs. Within an Irish context many families sharing surnames did not, and do not even to this day, necessarily share a direct bloodline. In order to address this, attempts have been made to distinguish between different family groupings by reference to either the name of their residence or the name of the barony where most of their land was located. In some instances, environmental boundaries are even extended to county parameters in order to classify a particular family unit. Examples include the Kellys in Roscommon and O’Briens in Clare. The map search option also deserves special mention for contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of local between such gentry houses.

Another welcome aspect of the database was the decision to include some estates <500 acres where there is evidence that these were part of the family, social, and political network which constituted landed society, thereby providing a more nuanced  and richer depiction of contemporary Irish society. Consequently, the more humble 164 acres owned by Sarah Helena Kelly, wife of Edmond Walter Kelly (Dunkellin) receives the same attention as the Browne estate (Westport), which was comprised of some 114,881 acres in 1876. The project can be accessed through ( or contacted via email: ( Unfortunately, a similar resource does not exist for Ulster and Leinster although Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned Mansions of Ireland (Cork, 2010)  ( sheds a glimmer of light on the big house in these as yet neglected provinces.

Spanning over two centuries, the Landed Estates Database provides a comprehensive and integrated resource guide to landed estates and historic houses in Connacht and Munster, c. 1700-1914. It remains to be seen whether a similar database will be constructed of building developments in Ireland in the two decades straddling the recent turn of the century.

Joanne McEntee is completing doctoral research on the nineteenth century Irish landed estate, as part of the Texts, Contexts, Cultures programme in the Moore Institute, NUI Galway. This project is funded by PRTLI 4.

Landed Estates Database:

As of today the search is misdirecting to computer language, so only the “Families A-Z” search is working. I will edit this notice when I see that that error has been corrected.  Meanwhile,  after you open the link above, click on Families, choose an initial letter and search for a name. Putting a name in the search box might also work.

The Landed Estates Web site is a searchable, online database of all Landed Estates in Connacht and Munster, c. 1700-1914, maintained by the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway.


Ireland Landed Estates Court Files

What is in the Collection?

During the 1840s, Ireland suffered a massive famine. Many tenants died, and others emigrated, hoping to find relief. As a result, landlords lost their major source of income, and their estates went into debt, culminating in a high number of foreclosures. It is estimated that between the years 1850 and 1858 around 8,000 estate foreclosures were handled.

In 1849, an act was passed which established the Encumbered Estates Court. This court handled the sale and accounting of bankrupted estates. In 1858, the Landed Estates Court was established. This court handled both unencumbered and encumbered estates.

These records were created to provide a detailed accounting of bankrupted estate sales. These records are generally reliable. This collection covers records for the years 1850 to 1885. These records consist of maps, which are hand-drawn, and tenant lists which are typed on preprinted forms. The records are divided by county and lot.

Citing this Collection

Citing your sources makes it easy for others to find and evaluate the records you used. When you copy information from a record, list where you found that information. Here you can find citations already created for the entire collection and for each individual record or image.

Collection Citation:

“Ireland Landed Estate Court Files, 1850-1885.” Database with Images. FamilySearch. : accessed 2017. National Archives, Dublin.

____________________________________________________________________________________________CONTEMPORARY PRINTED SOURCES:

  • HUSSEY DE BURGH, U. H. The Landowners of Ireland: an alphabetical list of the owners of estates of 500 acres or £500 valuation and upwards in Ireland. Dublin: Hodges, Foster and Figgis, 1878
  • PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS. Return of Untenanted Lands in Rural Districts, Distinguishing Demesnes on Which There is a Mansion…, HC 1906,
  • PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS. Return of owners of land of one acre and upwards, in the several counties …. in Ireland. HC 1876, LXXX ,
  • Royal Dublin Society Statistical Surveys, most available surveys for counties in Connacht and Munster online at
    • Dutton, Hely: A statistical and agricultural survey of the county of Galway. Dublin: Printed at the University Press by R. Graisberry, 1824
    • Dutton, Hely. Statistical survey of the county of Clare. Dublin: Printed by Graisberry and Campbell,
    • McParlan, James. Statistical survey of the county of Sligo. Dublin: Printed by Graisberry and Campbell, 1802. 630.94172 McP
    • McParlan, James. Statistical survey of the county of Mayo. Dublin: 1802.
    • McParlan, James. Statistical survey of the county of Leitrim. Dublin, 1802. (Available at
    • Townsend, Horatio. Statistical survey of the county of Cork. Dublin: 1810.
    • Weld, Isaac. Statistical survey of the county of Roscommon. Dublin: 1832.
  • SLATER, Isaac. Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1846. (London: Slater, 1846) and
  • Taylor, George and Skinner, Andrew. Maps of the Roads of Ireland. (London, 1778 & 1783, reprinted Irish University Press, 1969) available online at
  • Walford, Edward. County Families of the United Kingdom, 1860.
  • WILSON, William. The Post-Chaise Companion or Travellers Directory through Ireland. The author: Dublin, 1786

More About Irish Estate Records:

Most of our Irish ancestors were tenant farmers, leasing plots directly from the landowner or sub-leasing from another Irishman. Land records are a good source for family history information, even if our ancestors didn’t own real property in Ireland. 

Noble families and Church of Ireland clergy were the major Irish landowners prior to the 20th century. Tom Rice shared good information about land ownership and estate records in his class last Saturday. He explained how estate papers may include details about leases, tenants, evictions, emigration, and other economic and social conditions.

Of course, the key is knowing the name of the townland where your ancestor lived.  If you know the townland, Griffiths’ Valuation will help you identify the landowner (at the time of the valuation). If you’re lucky enough to have ancestors from Connacht or Munster, you may find information on the Landed Estates Database. (Read more at


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