This guide provides an overview of the sources relating to the topic of estate history held in the Special Collections and Archives department at the Glucksman Library.
It outlines the various types of archival and printed material relating to estate history held at UL, and suggests other archive services and online resources which may be of interest to researchers.
The department holds only archival records relating to particular Munster families and estates. It does not hold general genealogical records. Read more here.
A number of our archival collections contain material relating to the history of several Munster families and their estates.
Landed estates held their property for a very long time and produced a large quantity of a variety of written material. This provides a rich resource for students of virtually every aspect of history. It is important to note, however, that the type and nature of information estate collections contain is linked to two factors: the activities on the estate and the lands associated with it on the one hand, and the lives and activities of the families who owned it on the other. While some items, such as leases, maps, surveys, and accounts can be found among most estate papers, no two collections are exactly the same.
2. Key printed and online sources for estate history
There are a number of key reference texts relating to estate history in Special Collections and Archives. Here are just a few to get you started on your research:
- Sources for the history of landed estates in Ireland by Terence Dooley (Special Collections/REF/929.3415)
- The big houses and landed estates of Ireland: a research guide by Terence Dooley (Leonard/B/5907)
- The Downshire estates in Ireland, 1801-1845: the management of Irish landed estates in the early nineteenth century by WA Maguire (Norton/B/1156)
- Bibliography of Irish family history by Edward MacLysaght (Special Collections/REF/929.209415/MCC)
- A guide to tracing your Limerick ancestors by Margaret Franklin (Special Collections/REF/929.107204194/FRA)
Search the library catalogue here.
Helpful online resources for estate and family history include:
A full list of useful online resources is available here.
3. Key genealogical resources
We hold the records of particular Munster families and their estates. We do not hold general genealogical records, such as records of births, marriages and deaths. The best places to begin your genealogical research include:
- local, city and county archives and library services (for Munster archives, see our A–Z list of research resources)
- the General Register Office (GRO)
- the Registry of Deeds
- the National Archives of Ireland (for more, read more at the NAI’s genealogy website and see its free genealogical service)
- the National Library of Ireland (for more, see the NLI’s guide to getting started with family history research, its dedicated genealogy service , and its newspaper database)
- Irish Genealogy irishgenealogy.ie
4. Types of estate records
Material contained in estate and family collections can generally be divided into two categories: administrative and personal. In the first category, the most common items to be found are leases. These are legal documents, which regulate the amount of land held by the tenant, the duration of the lease, the amount and frequency of rent to be paid, and any other conditions relating to the leasing of the property. Early leases were hand-written on parchment or vellum and can be very elaborate, with maps or sketch plans of the property. Later leases utilised standard printed forms with blank spaces for relevant details to be inserted. Leases provide useful information on the extent and nature of the lands belonging to an estate, the tenants of individual holdings, the value of land, and activities such as hunting, fishing, mining, quarrying, and building. In larger collections, leases can also provide genealogical information when they are renewed decade after decade to members of the same family.
Accounts were commonly entered into bound ledgers but can also take the form of individual weekly or monthly balance sheets. Rentals record the amount of the rent owed or paid by the tenants on the estate and may include details such as the terms under which land was held, or comments relating to the tenants and the state of their holdings.
Labourers’ accounts were used to record building, farming, and other activities on the estate. They usually outline the activities of one week on a single page, listing the name of each worker, the number days they have worked, and their daily rate of pay. In best ledgers, the nature of work is also recorded. Other types of accounts can include farm, cattle, stock, and household accounts, general summaries of profit and loss, and accounts of money paid for services or wages paid to herdsmen, gamekeepers, gardeners, stewards, cooks, housekeepers, and other servants.
Accounts are helpful in mapping out fluctuations in the financial status of the estate and in identifying local families who worked on the estate. They are sometimes combined with maps or surveys, which can contain detailed information on land-usage, down to the names and sizes of individual fields. They can also illuminate difficulties tenants faced in times of hardship such as famine, and actions taken (or not taken) by the landowner to alleviate them.
Formal estate correspondence between a landlord and his agent can provide insights into problems of estate management and the economic and social conditions of the wider neighbourhood. Petitions from tenants can throw light on disputes and other issues affecting the local community and the nature of the relationship between the tenants and the landowning family.
Architectural plans and drawings, estimates, and building accounts can provide useful information on the physical evolution of a property and help with the dating of a building or some of its parts. Larger collections can also contain material relating to the construction of public buildings such as schools or churches patronised by the landowner; improvements made to labourers’ cottages, village renewal schemes; the construction of roads, canals, and railways, and the erection of monuments to commemorate significant local or national events.
Bills and Receipts
Bills and receipts are among the most useful and versatile types of source material commonly found in estate collections. They provide information on the landowning family’s standard and quality of living, their diet, pastimes, and personal interests. In a wider context, bills and receipts provide important information on trade and local economy and help establish what businesses existed in a particular town at a particular time, what goods they supplied, how much things cost, and how these costs fluctuated over time. Receipts are particularly useful in connection with small settlements, and before the 1800s, when trade directories were rare and limited to the largest cities. Lastly, the appearance of receipts can be revealing: they can vary from a few lines hand-written on a plain piece of paper to elaborate affairs with printed letterheads, often with an illustration of the type or origin of goods supplied, or even of the shop itself.
Wills and Marriage Settlements
Wills and marriage settlements are a particularly valuable resource for local, social, and family historians. They can reveal much about the testator’s or bride and groom’s wealth, property, and social standing, about family dynamics and relationships, and, on a larger scale, about trends and changes in social and economic trends.
When the proprietor of a landed estate was a clergyman or had sons who made a career in the church, documents reflecting their professional activities can be found among family papers. These may include drafts of sermons, minutes of vestry meetings, tithe accounts, and correspondence relating to clerical matters.
Military and Wartime Records
Collections of family papers often contain wartime letters and diaries, which provide unique and personal insights into events as they unfolded during times of strife. Such documents serve as a reminder of the high price many families paid for peace when their loved ones never returned home from the front.
Letters and Diaries
Personal diaries and private correspondence are a goldmine for social and family historians. They can reveal the writers’ innermost thoughts and provide detailed information about their daily lives not available anywhere else. It is important to remember that these documents should be interpreted within the context of the time in which they were written and not through the lens of our own experience.
Photographs provide a visual dimension to family history. Portraits can not only show the physical appearance of family members but provide clues of their social status and, when viewed in a wider time frame, reveal changes in fashion and social mores. Photographs can capture significant events, provide intimate glimpses of family life, and retain evidence of buildings since demolished, or landscapes since altered.
When researching an estate collection, a few basic skills are required. You will need to be able to navigate through the finding aid to identify items of interest. You should have a clear idea of what type of information you are looking for yet keep an open mind: estate papers were not written with modern researchers in view, and a bit of creative thinking is required to establish where particular information may be found. Finally, the ability to read handwriting is a skill worth developing!
5. Video introduction: estate archives at UL
6. Key archive collections
The Allott Papers
The Allott Papers map the history of the families of Odell, Morony, Lloyd, and Allott who through marriage connections each in turn succeeded to the Odellville estate near Ballingarry, county Limerick. The collection comprises 11 boxes or 292 files of material extending from the 1780s to the 1990s.
- Extensive range of leases, mortgages, conveyances, marriage settlements, and wills from the 19th and 20th centuries relating to the Odell, Morony, Lloyd, and Allott families.
- Extensive records relating to the management of a dairy farm from 1945 to 1994
- Good set of commonplace books and scrapbooks from the 19th century, compiled by members of the Quaker families of Webb and Watson, and containing notes of scientific, geographical, topographical, meteorological, botanical, and zoological interest, maintenance hints and remedies for households and farms, and a wide range of illustrations
- No rentals or estate accounts
- No personal correspondence or diaries
The Armstrong Papers
The Armstrong family of Moyaliffe Castle, county Tipperary, and the related families of Maude of Lenaghan, county Fermanagh; Everard of Ratcliffe Hall, Leicestershire; Kemmis of Ballinacor, county Wicklow; Russell of Broadmead Manor, Kent. The collection comprises 133 boxes or 2554 files of material extending from 1662 to 1999. It provides a rich insight into the evolution of an Irish estate and its gradual but irrevocable dispersal following the death of the only son and heir in the First World War.
- Large quantity of 18th-century legal records relating to law suits in which members of the Armstrong family were involved
- Good representation of material of clerical nature, including a set of 18th-century sermons, some 18th- and 19th-century tithe records, and material relating to the so-called tithe wars in the 1830s
- Good representation of rent and labourers’ accounts from the 18th to the early 20th century
- Three sets of diaries and more than 1,000 items of correspondence written during the First World War; wartime correspondents include Field Marshal Douglas Haig, 1s Earl Haig (1861 –1928), General Sir Henry de Beauvoir de Lisle (1864 –1955), Major-General Thomas Tait Pitman (1868 –1941), Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas D’Oyly Snow (1858 –1940), and the Victoria Cross recipient Captain Robert Gee (1876 –1960).
- Over 13,000 family photographs, including formal and informal portraits; family pets and horses bred on the Moyaliffe estate; country house shooting and hunting parties in Ireland, England and Scotland; tenants and their families at Moyaliffe Castle, county Tipperary and Ballinacor, county Wicklow; and scenes of field operations in France and Gallipoli during the First World War
- Material from the 17th century is scarce
- Personal records, including diaries and personal correspondence are mostly limited to the 20th century
The Barry Papers
The Barry Papers relate to the Sandville House branch of the family in County Limerick, particularly James Grene Barry (1841 –1929), his political interests, and his professional activities as agent to a number of prominent landed families. The collection comprises 2 boxes or 75 files of material extending from 1821 to 1931.
- Extensive notes and pedigrees relating to the families of Barry, Roche, Nagle, and Waters collected by James Grene Barry
- Printed matter and correspondence relating to James Grene Barry’s objections to Gladstone’s Home Rule Bill of 1893
- Material relating to the Lyons, Roche Kelly, Russell, Sullivan, Synan, and other estates in county Limerick, illustrating the effects on landowning families of the various Land Acts passed in the early twentieth century
- Apart from genealogical notes, there is limited primary material relating to the Barry family and their holdings in counties Limerick and Cork
The Daly Papers
The Daly Papers comprises 36 boxes or 779 files of documents dating from 1877 to 1975 relating to the Daly family of Limerick City. Notable individuals who feature prominently in the collection include the Fenian John Daly (1845 –1916), who served as Mayor of Limerick three times in a row (1899 –1901) and who inspired a new generation of activists to challenge the existing political structures; his nephew Edward ‘Ned’ Daly (1891 –1916), the youngest commandant of the Easter Rising executed in its aftermath; his niece Kathleen Daly (1878 –1972), founder member of Cumann na mBan, the first female Lord Mayor of Dublin, and wife of Thomas Clarke (1858 –1916); his niece Madge Daly (1877 –1969); who took over the family bakery on the death of her uncle; and his niece Nora Daly (1889 –1977) who married Edward Dore (1895 –1972), a member of the Irish Republican Brotherhood who was imprisoned in Frongoch for his involvement in the Easter Rising. The material in the collection provides a unique insight into the birth of the Irish republic and the country’s search for an identity in the first decades of its existence.
Additional material relating to members of the Daly family can be found in the Tom Clarke and Kathleen Clarke Papers, John Devoy Papers, and Kathleen Clarke Memoirs in the National Library of Ireland (NLI), Dublin; and in the Kathleen Daly Clarke Papers and Collection of Thomas Clarke and Irish Political Matters 1897–1972 at Boston College, USA.
- First-hand accounts of the Easter Rising, War of Independence, and the Civil War
- Correspondence between John Daly and Thomas Clarke 1898 –1915
- Letters from many of the key figures of the era, including Roger Casement, John Devoy, Eva Gore Booth, William Kent, Seán Mac Diarmada, Constance Markievicz, Patrick Pearse, Austin Stack, Michael Staines, and others
- Personal items and mementoes relating to John Daly, Edward (‘Ned’) Daly, Seán Mac Diarmada, and others
- Substantial collection of photographs of the Daly family and the men and women involved in the Easter Rising
- Material relating to the fundraising campaign for the design and construction of the Limerick 1916 Memorial on Sarsfield Bridge in Limerick city orchestrated by Edward Dore, husband of Nora Daly
- Research material collected and generated by Éamonn de hÓir, son of Nora Daly in his pioneering work on the study of Irish place names
- Substantial quantity of material was destroyed when the Daly family home was burnt by the British Army in 1921
- Records relating to the Daly family’s bakery business in Limerick City are superficial, comprising mainly account books from Edward Dore’s time as manager in the 1920s –1940s
- The collection is strongly focused on political events and provides limited insights into the personal lives of family members
The De Laval/ Willis Papers
This small collection of 14 files contains twentieth-century reproductions of portraits and transcripts of documents dating from 1689 to 1931, which provide a snapshot of the exiled Huguenot families of De Laval and Willis, and their efforts to create a new life in a foreign country.
- Transcripts of family correspondence from the 17th and 18th centuries
- Pedigree of the descendants of Robert Henri d’Ully Vicomte de Laval
- Photographs of miniatures depicting members of the Willis, Gubbins, and Petrie families from the 18th and 19th families
- The collection is small in size and consists of photocopies rather than primary source material
The Dunraven Papers
The Dunraven Papers comprise more than 15,000 documents and some 225 volumes dating from 1574 to the 1930s, created and generated by the Quin/ Wyndham Quin family of Adare Manor, County Limerick, who were elevated to the peerage as Viscounts Mount-Earl in 1816 and as Earls of Dunraven in 1822. The latter title and the Wyndham half of the double barrel surname assumed in 1815 are derived from Caroline Wyndham of Dunraven Castle, Glamorganshire, South Wales, a wealthy heiress who in 1810 married Windham Henry Quin, eldest son and heir of the 1st Earl of Dunraven.
The documents in this collection cover an exceptionally broad range of topics. These include for instance estate management and improvement; relationship between the Dunravens and their tenants; building activities of the 2nd and 3rd Earls; politics; cultural and religious aspects of 19th-century life, including spiritualism, the Oxford Movement, and Roman Catholicism (the 3rd Earl was a Catholic convert); science; archaeology and antiquarianism; and Quin and Wyndham family genealogy, which the 2nd Earl in particular researched in considerable detail.
Material relating to the Dunraven family’s Welsh estates has been deposited at the National Library of Wales, [https://archives.library.wales/index.php/dunraven-estate-records] Aberystwyth. Additional material relating to the Earls of Dunraven can be found at the Glamorgan Archives [http://calmview.cardiff.gov.uk/] in Leckwith, Cardiff.
- Extensive set of title deeds
- Extensive set of leases to tenants from the 18th and 19th centuries
- Large quantity of wills and marriage settlements from 1704 to 1871
- Three sets of personal journals kept by Thomas Wyndham; Caroline Countess of Dunraven, wife of the 2nd Earl; and Eva Countess of Dunraven, wife of the 5th Earl
- Large quantity of material relating to the construction of Adare Manor, including account books, estimates, quotations, and extensive correspondence, including letters from architects Augustus Welby Pugin (1812 –1852) and Philip Charles Hardwick (1822 –1892)
- Large quantity of correspondence of archaeological, antiquarian, scientific, and religious interest between Edwin, 3rd Earl of Dunraven and George Petrie (1790 –1866), Sir Frederick William Burton (1816 –1900), Thomas Larcom (1801 –1879), William Stokes (1804 –1878), Sir William Rowan Hamilton (1805 –1865), Charles Graves (1812 –1899), Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800 –1882), William Ewart Gladstone (1809 –1898), Cardinal Manning (1808 –1892), Cardinal Newman (1801 –1890), James Henthorn Todd (1805 –1869), George Du Noyer (1817 –1869), and others
- No concentration of material until the late 17th century
- Virtually no correspondence prior to 1800
- No rentals of earlier date than 1855
- Limited quantity of material relating to the 4th Earl of Dunraven (1841 –1926) and his prominent political career
- Architectural drawings relating to Adare Manor and some of the notebooks and scrap books listed in the finding aid have been retained by the Dunraven family
- No photocopying, photographing, scanning, or reproduction by any other means of the material is permitted without written permission of the Dunraven family
For more information on the Dunraven collection, see the research guide here.
The Glin Papers
This collection relates to the FitzGerald family of Glin Castle, County Limerick, who held the title Knight of Glin. It contains material relating to seven generations of Knights, from John Bateman FitzGerald, 23rd Knight of Glin (d. 1803) to Desmond John Villiers, 29th Knight of Glin (1937 –2011), and covers both administrative and personal records.
- Large quantity of 19th-century mortgages, illustrating the encumbrances which affected the estate
- Large quantity of 19th and 20th-century marriage settlements and wills
- Large quantity of 19th and 20th-century leases and con-acre agreements
- Large quantity of 19th and 20th-century rentals
- Long Rock fishery records from 1866 to 1890 and 1926 –1944
- Constabulary journals kept by William Massey Blennerhassett, son-in-law to the 23rd Knight, during his time as a sub-inspector of the Royal Irish Constabulary from 1843 to 1863, and his personal journals from 1861 to 1897
- Voluminous personal correspondence of Veronica née Villiers (1909 –1998), wife of the 28th Knight of Glin
- Watercolour sketches by the illustrator Amelie Amherst
- Plans, drawings, and correspondence relating to the restoration and refurbishment of Glin Castle in the 1950s
- Documents relating to the development of Glin Castle as a guest house in the 1980s
- The material dates from 1800 onwards, the older documents having allegedly been burnt in a tantrum by the 25th Knight of Glin, and therefore does not reflect the long history of the FitzGerald family
- Much of the more recent material in the collection is closed to researchers for a number of years to protect the privacy of living members of the FitzGerald family
The Limerick Papers (P51)
This collection contains material relating to the Pery family of the Earls of Limerick and the associated families of Sexten and Stackpole. The collection comprises 12 boxes or 175 files dating predominantly from 1535-1681 and 1832-1913. The collection forms part of a larger body of documents deposited in the National Library of Ireland, Dublin, the finding aid of which can be consulted here.
- A notable set of 17th-century material, including a compilation of manuscript transcripts of letters and petitions by Edmond Sexten the elder (1486-1555) and his grandson Edmond Sexten the younger (1595-1636) concerning among other things their disputes with Limerick Corporation; a compilation of abstracts and copies of early deeds relating to the Sexten, Casey, and Stackpole families; and a commonplace book compiled by Colonel Edmund Pery between 1671 and 1681.
- A good range of wills, accounts, correspondence, and statements from the mid- to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries relating to the family’s financial affairs, mostly arising from the will of the 1st Earl of Limerick and the dramatic reduction in rents at the turn of the century
- A small but interesting series of leases of property in Limerick City
- A comprehensive set of documents relating to a dispute over title to St George’s Church at No. 1 Mallow Street, Limerick, which was demolished to make way to the Provincial Bank of Ireland
- Some of the 17th-century documents require the ability to read secretary hand and a knowledge of Latin
- The scope of the collection is limited. There are no rent rolls, no estate correspondence, and no personal papers of family members apart from an album of photographs, sketches, and signatures collected by May, Countess of Limerick at the turn of the 20th century
It should also be noted that the material deposited in the National Library of Ireland dates primarily from 1371 to 1806. A significant gap of the nineteenth-century material therefore exists, both in terms of estate and personal documentation
The Tim Looney Papers (P43)
The Tim Looney Papers contain manuscript and research material collected and generated by Tim Looney (1914 –1990), a well-known local historian and native of Cahir, County Tipperary. One of his most remarkable achievements was to recover papers from Shanbally Castle near Clogheen, County Tipperary prior to its demolition in March 1960. The collection also contains a small quantity of materials relating to Doneraile Court, County Cork; Castle Hyde, County Cork; and Castle Otway, County Tipperary; and Looney’s research notes on archaeological and other topics close to his heart. The collection comprises 39 boxes and 16 outsize volumes, and covers the dates 1715 –1900.
- Extensive rental and other estate accounts from the 1730s to the 1940s relating to Shanbally Castle, county Tipperary
- Extensive estate correspondence from 1814 to 1948 relating to Shanbally Castle, county Tipperary
- Records relating to Clogheen Fever Hospital
- 1821 census of Clogheen
- Unusually large collection of correspondence between Viscount Lismore’s tenants in Counties Cork and Tipperary and his agent William Rochfort from c. 1890 to c. 1903
- Good range of map surveys of townlands and holdings in counties Cork, Limerick, and Tipperary from 1715 to 1898
- The bulk of the papers relating to Shanbally Castle were destroyed when the house was demolished in 1960. The surviving set documents represents a fragment of the original quantity of material and contains many gaps and omissions
The O’Carroll Papers
The O’Carroll collection contains 25 boxes of material relating to the Carroll, Angas, and Scott families of Tulla and Lissenhall, County Tipperary. It includes legal, administrative, and personal documents dating from 1739 to 2000, but primarily from the 1800s. It may be of interest to note that related family memorabilia, including medals, uniforms, and portraits are held by Limerick Civic Trust.
- Good set of wills from the 18th to the 20th century
- Lissenhall rental accounts and lists of tenants from the 19th and 20th centuries
- Material relating to George du Maurier and his family, including his daughter Daphne du Maurier
- Good range of photographs, including images of the du Maurier family
- Estate documents contain several gaps and are limited in range
- Limited amount of personal correspondence
- Limited amount of material relating to the military career of Major General Sir William Parker Carroll (1776 –1842)
The O’Mara Papers
This collection contains material relating to the descendants of James O’Meara of Toomevaara, County Tipperary, founder of O’Mara’s Bacon Company (later the Bacon Company of Ireland) in 1839. Originally established on Mungret Street, the business was later moved to Roche’s Street, where it operated until its closure in 1987. In addition to being a noted industrial family, the O’Maras were prominent in politics. James’s son Stephen O’Mara Senior (1844 –1926) was a town councillor and the first Mayor of Limerick to be elected on the nationalist ticket. In the 1925 election, he was elected to the Free State Seanad. His son, Stephen O’Mara Junior (1884 –1959), who took over the management of the family business, was a three-time Mayor of Limerick and a prominent political figure during the turbulent years leading up to and immediately following Irish independence. He married in 1918 Anne O’Brien, sister of the author Kate O’Brien. The collection comprises 33 boxes or 1,000 files of documents dating from 1843 to 1991.
- Extensive business records from 1904 to 1959, providing an insight into the Irish bacon industry and its gradual decline from the 1930s onwards owing to international competition
- Stephen O’Mara Junior’s correspondence during his three terms as Mayor of Limerick 1921 –1923, his bond drive to the United States in 1921 –1922, and his subsequent imprisonment in 1922 –1923
- Correspondence, reports, proposals, and estimates relating to the establishment and management of The Irish Press newspaper, of which Stephen O’Mara Junior was a founding director
- Extensive collection of letters from Kate O’Brien to her sister and other family members from 1923 to 1974
- Letters from the poet Austin Clarke (1896 –1974) to Anne O’Brien written as a young man on the cusp of his literary career
- Personal material in the collection is primarily focused on Stephen O’Mara Junior (1884 –1959). Records relating to other members of the family are perfunctory.
- There are no business records relating to O’Mara Limited prior to 1904
- Records concerning the Bacon Company of Ireland are limited to material generated by Stephen O’Mara Junior as director and do not encompass all operational aspects of the business.