Registry of Deeds...

This registry was established in 1708 under the Registration of Deeds Act (Ireland) of 1707.

The main object was to determine priorities between documents relating to the same piece of land in order to secure purchasers and to prevent fraudulent conveyances of land. The Act was largely designed to prevent laws which prohibited the sale and transfer of lands to Roman Catholics being by-passed by secret deeds.

Registration in the Registry provided a safe record of a deed and, although registration was not compulsory, the fact that the Act provided for unregistered deeds being regarded as fraudulent against registered deeds meant that registration became general in most areas.

The Registry was established as part of the Penal Code against Roman Catholics and the statute specifically stated its purpose was

‘preventing forgeries … frequently practised in this kingdom, especially by Papists to the great prejudice of the Protestant interests thereof’.

Leases of less than twenty-one years were not accepted for registration and this in effect prevented the use of the relaxation of the Penal Laws in 1778. Registration was not carried out on a widespread scale until about 1745. From that point onwards until c.1830 the memorials can be a unique source of information.

The original memorials in the Registry of Deeds are held in the basement of the office at Henrietta Street, Dublin, but transcripts are available on vellum sheets bound in large volumes in a number of public search rooms at the top of the building. Up to 1832 there are an estimated one million pages of documentation.

There are two indexes to the memorials in the Registry of Deeds. The first of these is an index of grantors. This is arranged alphabetically by surname and, although it gives the surname of the grantee, this name is not indexed. The name of the relevant townland is not specified until 1828. Thus, if a surname is a common one this makes use of the index extremely difficult.

The lands index is arranged alphabetically by townland, within each county, and the towns are listed separately at the end. This is not a strict alphabetical index. The townlands are just gathered according to their initial letter. If the townland has the prefix ‘Bally’, much searching is involved. PRONI holds microfilm copies of the volumes of transcripts of memorials (MIC/311) and also of the lands and grantors index (MIC/7).

The Registry of Deeds is the one archive in Ireland which is superior to equivalent registries in the rest of the British Isles. There was such uncertainty about title to land in Ireland that registration was carried out on a much wider scale here than elsewhere in the United Kingdom and from the outset detailed indexes were maintained. Even in Scotland it is only now that detailed indexing of registered memorials is taking place.