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Some Historical Notes on the Guerin Surname in Co. Clare by Pat Guerin
Appendices: Appendix 2: Freeholders Registers

Extract from Irish Freeholders, Freemen and Voting Registers
by Kyle J. Beit (

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. A great deal of the Irish freeholders records were lost in the 1922 Four Courts Fire.

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.

Poll Books record votes cast at parliamentary elections by qualifying freeholders. They contain the name and address of the voter and often the address of their freehold. Freeholders Registers give similar information to the Poll Books but do not record how people voted at a particular election.

A Freeholders Register generally lists:

the name of the freeholder;
the abode of the freeholder;
the location of the freehold;
the value of the freehold;
the lives named in the lease or other tenure;
and the date and place of registry of the freehold.

In some cases the freeholder’s landlord or occupation is also listed. If the landlord is given, this may lead the researcher into landed estate papers for that landlord. Depending on their content and survival, landed estate papers can be full of information about successive generations of tenant families who held land by lease. For details about accessing and using landed estate papers, see Betit and Radford’s chapter “Estate Records” in Ireland: A Genealogical Guide.

What Percentage of the Population is Included in Freeholders’ Lists?
A significant percentage of the population was included in freeholders lists in the time period 1793-1829 when both Catholic and Protestant forty-shilling freeholders were qualified voters. For example, the population of County Leitrim in 1821 was 124,785 while there were 5,315 freeholders polled in the election of 1818 in County Leitrim. Another example is County Limerick where the population in 1821 was 218,432, while there were 12,379 freeholders polled in the County Limerick 1820 election. When the qualification was raised to £10 in 1829, the electorate dropped from about 230,000 to around 14,000 in all of Ireland.

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Appendix 1: Book References
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Appendix 3: Ms GO 545: Extracts from
deeds, records etc. relating to the
name Guerin in Ireland & England