Estate records

Published in Issue 2 (March/April 2016), Letters, Volume 24

Sir,—Fiona Fitzsimons’s ‘Estate records as a source for family history’ (HI 23.6, Nov./Dec. 2015, p. 37) raises the question of where such records are to be appropriately housed. When I wrote my biography of Charles Acton of Kilmacurragh, Co. Wicklow (Charles: the life and worlds of Charles Acton, 1914–1999), I had access to the extant records of the Kilmacurragh Estate, from the late seventeenth century up to the 1920s. These records then had to find an appropriate archival home. The obvious location seemed to be the Wicklow County Archives. However, on the advice of an eminent archivist who was aware that County Wicklow at that time (2010) had no qualified archivist dedicated to that county alone, the records were deposited in the National Archives in Dublin, which gave the Acton family a written assurance that the papers were held in safekeeping until such time as they could be responsibly transferred to County Wicklow. Whether that transfer has now taken effect I do not know, nor am I aware of whether in the interim the papers have been open for inspection at the National Archives.

In the Appendix to my book (which provided an overview of the Acton ownership and management of the estate) I compiled the kind of information to which Fiona Fitzsimons refers: a list, from all the available records—rent books, parish tithe registers, leases and other tenancy documents, and family diaries—of the tenant farmers in 24 townlands, with locations (and acreages) of 157 tenancies among approximately 84 families, of whom Bolton, Byrne, Farrell, Hill, Hudson and Taylor were the most prominent, indicating which of these were Protestants (who were favoured, but not exclusively so, by the Acton family). I supplemented this with as much information as was available to me regarding individual persons and their families.

Are there not other families still retaining similar records relating to tenancies, and therefore identifying family history, which should be available in either a national or a county institution, and is there any incentive to make those transfers or to safeguard their custodianship?—Yours etc.,

RICHARD PINE
Corfu

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