A deed is a written agreement between two or more parties and is usually about the buying and selling of property. In order to sell property the vendor (seller) must provide proof of ownership, this proof takes the form of deeds which establish a chain of ownership going back at least 30 years and often much more. The deeds also establish the type of tenure (i.e. Fee simple, fixed term lease etc.) and the amount of any rent to be paid.
The majority of deeds are sale or lease agreements but marriage settlements, mortgages, and some wills are also included.
Registration of deeds was available (but not compulsory) from 1708. For registration purposes a memorial was made, this was a summary of the deed signed by all parties and witnessed. The memorial was then copied into the transcript book at the Registry of Deeds, an abstract was also made. The full deeds, which contain much more detail than the memorials, were usually held by the parties involved.
Few Catholics registered deeds before 1770.
Registration of deeds was not compulsory, many properties have no registered deeds. In such cases deeds may be found in private collections or in the papers of some of the larger estates.
In later years many deeds contained abstracts of earlier deeds, these abstracts were prepared by lawyers and signed off as representing proof of ownership. If an abstract existed it was no longer necessary to access the original deeds (some of which were centuries old) every time a property changed hands.
Deeds can be very difficult to understand, they contain many archaic legal terms. It is advisable to read one of the guides for genealogists before starting.
The surname index is arranged alphabetically by surname of the grantor (seller), it also lists the buyer. In 1833 the name of the land was added.
The land index is arranged by county then townland by calendar index until 1828. After 1828 a second land index which included the barony was started but the original index was also continued. Some separate indexes for towns and cities also exist.
The transcript books are held at the Registry of Deeds, Henrietta St., Dublin. This organisation does not provide any research services.
Both deeds and indexes have been filmed by the LDS church and are available through the Family History Centres.