lease of lives

Research Tip of the Week

We recently had an 18th century search at the Registry of Deeds which involved land that a family held for a lease of lives.  Any genealogist will rub their hands with glee when they see the words ‘lease of lives’. Put simply what it meant is that the person taking the lease, the leasee, nominated three people in the lease and the lease expired when all three people named had died.  Often the leasee would nominate young family members and sometimes their ages were recorded. In a lease for lives renewable or a perpetual lease a new name could be inserted when one of the lives died on payment of a renewal fine. We came across such a lease taken out in the 1710s that remained in the family until the 1840s. This gave us invaluable genealogical information and we learnt about new alliances within the family.  This same family held the land up to 1849 when the Renewable Leasehold Conversion Act was passed.  This meant that the lessor had to grant the lessee a fee farm grant so that the lessee gained freehold title albeit they still paid a rent.

By Eneclann Research Expert,

Helen Moss                     

By Laura Carroll


4 years ago

Laura, I found such a lease of lives in my gt-grandmother's family in Longford East, Oola, Co Limerick. It came to attention with the sale of the DAMER ESTATES by Commissioners of Encumbered Estates on Jan. 16. 1855. The 23,147 statute acres included their farm in the townland of Longford East (part) - (3m. from Oola):
"Martin Ryan. Lease dated 1803, to John Cullen for lives of Martin Ryan & William Ryan, now 57 & 56 years; & John Ryan, decd." If I understand this correctly the latter John Ryan is decd so they needed to pay the 'renewal fine' and include another family member. This could have been Martin Ryan who was actually running the farm in the 1850s or his son Valentine who took the farm over from him. Presumably this lease was transferred to the new owner. What I do not understand is why John Cullen was involved. Any ideas?

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