Barony of Oneilland East Freeholder Returns for the years 1813 - 1832
Oneilland is the name of the former barony in County Armagh. It covers the northern area of the county bordering the south-eastern shoreline of Lough Neagh. At some stage the barony was divided into Oneilland East and Oneilland West.
As most people researching their family history in Ireland will know the scarcity of documentary sources for the 18th and early 19th centuries, partly because of the non-existence of census material and partly due to the destruction in 1922 of most of the public records of Ireland, have made it necessary to seek substitutes for the destroyed records and to make them accessible for research. Freeholders' Registers and Poll Books are one such substitute resource and are, therefore, of particular value to historians and genealogists, for analysing voting patterns or the strength of the tenant electorate on estates.
The Registered Freeholders Returns are a set of lists of people entitled to vote at elections. Freeholders were substantial farmers of the Irish counties who had the right to vote, as long as they owned or rented land that was worth forty shillings (40s.) or more. As a consequence they were given the nickname, the “Forty Shilling Freeholders”. A freeholder held his property either in fee simple, which means outright ownership, or by a lease for a life or lives (such as the term of his life or the term of three lives named in the lease). A tenant who held land for a definite period such as 31 years or 100 years did not qualify as a freeholder. A person with a freehold of sufficient value, depending on the law at the time, could register to vote.
From 1727 to 1793 only Protestants with a forty-shilling freehold (a freehold worth at least 40 shillings per year above the rent) or above qualified to vote. In 1793 Catholics with at least a forty-shilling freehold were given the vote. Forty-shilling freeholders, whether Catholic or Protestant, had the vote between 1793 and 1829. In 1829, all 40 shilling freeholders lost the vote, and from that date a £10 freehold was required to qualify to vote. From 1832 through 1884 a series of reform acts extended the franchise somewhat, but it was not until 1918 that all adult males (over age 21) were given the vote. In the 1920s women over age 21 gained the same privilege in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State (now the Republic of Ireland).
In the latter half of the 18th century and on into the early 19th century, landlords had some incentive to subdivide farms and to grant leases for lives (freehold estates). A freeholder with property of sufficient value could register to vote in elections. Some Irish landholders therefore created small freeholds, often by providing direct leases to people who previously were subtenants, in an effort to increase the landholders’ political influence, particularly after the enfranchisement of Roman Catholics in 1793. Freehold tenants could be persuaded to vote for their landlord’s chosen candidate in elections. The Roman Catholic Relief Act (1829) which was accompanied by the Parliamentary Elections (Ireland) Act (1829), more commonly referred to as the Disenfranchisement Act, abolished the forty shilling freeholders right to vote, and from that date a freehold worth £10, or more, was required to qualify to vote in Ireland. The new minimum £10 freehold reduced the total electorate in Ireland from 215,901 on 1st January 1829 to 39,872 on 1st January 1830. In the nine Ulster counties it decreased from 67,182 to 11,199. This remained the case in Ireland until it was widened by the 1884 Reform Act, which extended the voting qualifications as existed in the towns to the countryside.
In County Armagh, two members were returned to Parliament for the county. Before the Parliamentary Elections (Ireland) Act (1829), the number of freeholders entitled to vote in County Armagh was 8746.
They were as follows :
- 203 freeholders holding tenures of £50;
- 124 of those of £20 and;
- 8419 of those of forty shillings (40s.).
With the abolition of the forty shilling freeholder the number of electors in County Armagh was now 1361.
These were classed as follows :
- 235 freeholders holding tenures of £50;
- 186 of those of £20 and;
- 940 of those of £10.
Our database has been compiled from Freeholders Registers and contain the name of the Freeholder, where the Freehold Property was, a description of the Freehold i.e. Land and House or just Land or House, the annual rent, the Landlords name and the date of Registration. We have done our utmost to ensure that spellings are correct where possible and apologize for any we may have missed. Names that appear in multiple years have only been given one entry here.
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The information on this website is free and will always be so. However, there are many documents and records that we would like to show here that are only available for sale. If you would like to make a donation to the Lurgan Ancestry project, however small (or large!), to enable us to acquire these records, it would be very much appreciated.