In nineteenth-century Ireland, many people rented their property on a week-by-week basis. They had limited tenancy rights and faced eviction at any time, on the whim of their landlord. Despite this, or maybe because of it, Irish people formed a unique attachment to the land. It often passed from one generation to the next and remained in the same family for centuries.
As they had no legal rights to the property, this ‘inheritance’ was rarely subject to a written will. So, probate records, much used by genealogists abroad, are often of limited use in Ireland.
But, there is another way to trace the occupiers of a property over time – the Cancelled Books. These books record changes in landlord and occupier, as well as in the size and value of their holding. When the number of amendments made a book difficult to read, it was cancelled, and a new one opened. Hence the name. Unfortunately, the books covering the Republic of Ireland are not available online. A recent visit to the Valuation Office provided an insight into the fortunes of my paternal Byrne family from Co. Kildare.
Griffith published his Primary Valuation for Co. Kildare in 1853. It showed my third great-grandfather, Andrew Byrne, at his rented property in Athgarvan. At the time, Andrew had a cottage with an annual valuation of just ten shillings - as shown at plot 2e on the below map. His garden measured only fifteen perches in size. Bear in mind there were 160 perches in a single acre of land – this was a tiny garden for a man who worked as a gardener.
The earliest Cancelled Book for Athgarvan began a few years after 1853. In that short time, Andrew Byrne had already replaced Patrick Clynch as the occupier of the property at 2a. His new holding included a cottage and sheds, with a combined value of fifteen shillings a year. It's unlikely the house was any better than his previous one, but the new garden was over an acre in size. It was valued at an extra fifteen shillings a year. Andrew finally had a decent garden to call his own.
Andrew remained at this property and likely cultivated his garden for many years. Then, the Cancelled Books show Edward Byrne replaced him as the occupier of 2a. This revision was dated 1877, five years after Andrew had passed away. Andrew died of bronchitis on 26 October 1872, at the age of sixty-eight years, leaving his wife, Anne, behind.
Edward Byrne was Andrew’s son, born in Athgarvan, in 1850. He was the second youngest son - the youngest, Andrew, was still a minor in 1872. In June 1878, Edward married Margaret Mullins. If his mother was still alive, she probably continued to live with them. But, within ten years, Edward’s name was also removed as the occupier of 2a. The change dates to 1887 and suggests he passed away at a young age.
Owen Doran, Edward’s brother-in-law, replaced him as the ratepayer on record. Owen had married Edward’s sister Mary Byrne in May 1878. The Dorans had seven children, all baptised in the parish. They lived in Rosetown, the townland adjoining Athgarvan, before moving into the Byrne cottage. Then, in 1891, the family moved to New York. The cottage passed to a William Dowling, and most likely out of my family for good.
Looking back to the mid-1850s when Andrew Byrne replaced Patrick Clynch at 2a. Andrew's wife was born Anne Clynch. Chances are she was related to Patrick, especially now we know she moved into his home. But, it might take some work to figure out their precise relationship.
© Black Raven Genealogy