Transactions involving property have been recorded in Ireland since the early 1700s. The Irish Parliament first established the Registry of Deeds in 1708, but it was not widely used until after 1750.
While this entity is known as the Registry of Deeds, any kind of transaction involving real property was recorded in the Registry, from leases and rental agreements to marriage settlements. The Registry predominated until the 1830s, when its importance declined with the rise of two land surveys, each covering the entire country of Ireland:
- Tithe Applotment Books (1823-1838)
- Griffith's Primary Valuation (1848-1864)
Before going into the kinds of property information that each of these records has preserved, it's useful to gain an understanding of the administrative divisions that were commonly used in Ireland's past (and have been eliminated or greatly reduced in significance since), and those that remain in use today.
The smallest division is the townland, which can vary in size from less than an acre to thousands of acres. Ireland is made up of more than 64,000 townlands. Holdings by townland were tracked in census returns, the Tithe Applotment Books and Griffith's. The next division, dating back to the middle ages, is the civil parish, which may be comprised of from five to 30 townlands. Don't make the mistake of muddling up the civil parish with Roman Catholic parishes, a whole different animal, and generally consisting of a much larger area.
Civil parishes were then grouped together into baronies; in turn, groups of baronies (five to 22) make up the present-day county. Today, baronies and civil parishes are obsolete as administrative units.