Fiants of the Tudor sovereigns, 1521–1603

Fiants were a documentary series unique to Ireland.

These documents preceded the issue of royal grants. The term ‘fiant’ derives from the first word of the usual form of ‘Fiant literae patentes’, meaning ‘Let letters patent be made’.

The preliminary fiants prepared in Ireland provide far fuller information about individuals than the actual letters patent issued in London. When Irish chiefs were granted pardons under the ‘surrender and regrant’ policy they often listed scores of members of their extended families as well as gallowglasses (mercenary soldiers), horsemen and yeomen, husbandmen, tenants and even, on occasion, cottiers.

Individuals were identified with their full names, often with specific locations. Of particular interest is the pardon granted to Tirlagh McHenry O’Neale, chief of the Fews in south Armagh, in which 270 names were recorded, including a few women.

These names in Researching Armagh Ancestors by Ian Maxwell (Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2000), pp 138-9.