A process for researching the Registry of Deeds memorial transcription books

As noted in an earlier post, I am currently searching the Registry of Deeds memorial transcription books for any recorded evidence of the McCarthy family linked to the townland of Kilbarry.

Luckily for me, gone are the days of spending hours at the Registry of Deeds office, lugging the heavy ledgers down from the shelves to check the grantor and land indices, as well as the corresponding memorial entries in the hope of finding revealing information hidden within these volumes. Instead, the task has become more convenient to the researcher as these books are now fully accessible online as digitised microfilm through FamilySearch – the genealogy organisation supported by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church).

The Registry of Deeds registered a memorial – a synopsis copy – of an original deed, conveyance or will which was hand written on a single piece of paper and then copied into a huge ledger by a professional scribe. A reference to the registered memorial was then catalogued in alphabetical order in two separate index types: the first under the primary grantor’s surname and the second under the townland, organised by county. It is best to use either grantor or the townland index when seeking out a registered deed, conveyance or will. The above image shows the large memorial ledgers stored in the Reading Room at the Registry of Deeds, Henrietta street, Dublin [1].

Although the LDS Church fully filmed the deeds, the microfilms have not yet been indexed nor is the collection linked to a finding aid on their FamilySearch website – so in effect there is no means to search content within the digitised records. This makes the process of examining the deeds a bit more laborious, for example, once the researcher has chosen the correct file, they must manually scrolling through the film to the starting letter of the grantor or townland as indexed in the books.

Another site, the Registry of Deeds Index Project Ireland (RDIPI) uses the very same LDS Church microfilms for their valuable initiative. The project was set up for volunteers to log the relevant details of any record that they have accessed in the microfilm registry. As a result the project has a limited database of deeds available to search via finding aids on their website. But the volunteers are nowhere near to completing the full set of memorial and index volumes.

So with these two factors in mind, I decided to outline the process of how I search these online records and log any relevant findings. Other researchers might use a similar method, or indeed there might be a quicker and more efficient way, which of course I’d be happy to know about. Admittedly, my process may have its flaws, which I duly note, but for now this system is the one I am using and has given me some unexpected finds and useful results.

The resources

The research for this project uses the following two resources mentioned above.

  1. The Find Townland letter index (or land index) on the RDIPI website
  2. The Transcripts of memorials of deeds, conveyances and wills, 1708-1929 on the FamilySearch website

The process

The process I have developed for this research is composed of a few simple steps.

Step 1: Choose the county and time period

I begin by accessing the Find Townland letter webpage. Here, the index organises the different counties in Ireland under four distinct time periods:

  1. 1708–1738
  2. 1739–1779
  3. 1780–1809
  4. 1810–1819

The “Find Townland letter” finding aid comprises of a drop-down menu of the different counties in Ireland with four different period blocks ranging from the whole of the 18th century to the early 19th century. Copyright © Registry of Deeds Index Project Ireland, 2013–2018.

Step 2: choose the first letter of the townland

By selecting an individual period, such as 1708–1738, I am then taken to a separate page, where I can then choose the first letter of the townland of interest from the alphabetical guide. For example, I am investigating Kilbarry, so I choose “K”.

Letter guide for Cork 1780-1809. Copyright © Registry of Deeds Index Project Ireland, 2013–2018.

Step 3: accessing the Land Index

Once I select the appropriate start letter, the corresponding  LDS Church microfilm of the original volume is loaded on the aforementioned FamilySearch website. Here, I will see the first page of the County Cork “K” index for the selected time period.

Land index: Cork 1708-1738. These books are arranged under three columns: (i) Denomination, (ii) Baronys, Towns, Corporate & Parishes, and (iii) Partys Names and References [2]. [Click the image to enlarge]

On this site, I start reviewing each entry noting any “Kilbarry” in the list. It is important to know the Barony where the townland exists, as there can be multiple townlands of the same name across the county. The “Kilbarry” I am researching is in the parish of Fanlobbus in the Barony is East Carbery (West Division).

Once I find a listing, I download the page and save it in a folder called after the time period: Land index Cork 1708-1739.

An entry for Kilbarry Pt, Bo East Carbery, Blair to Goold, Lib: 66, Page: 516, No: 4811 [3]. [Click the image to enlarge]

Then, I record of the following details:

  1. Volume number 66
  2. Page number 516
  3. Memorial number 48111

Step 4: accessing the memorials

I use this information to source the memorial in the corresponding volume. I do this by returning to the RDIPI website and enter the volume number in the search field (see image).

Highlighted in red rectangle is the volume number search field. Copyright © Registry of Deeds Index Project Ireland, 2013–2018.

From here, I am taken to the corresponding LDS Church microfilm where I will check the volume for the page number and memorial number of interest. The easiest way to do this is to scroll through the thumbnails of the digital microfilm. Be aware that there are two volumes on a film, and look for the big image containing “BEGIN” which indicates the start of the volume.

Memorials are numbered in one continuous sequence (prior to 1833). You can double-click on one of the thumbnails to enlarge the image.

The Blair to Goold memorial number 48111, page 516, volume 66. The deeds are mostly lease agreements, and always give a date of the agreement and registration, a full description of the property location and the names of the people involved [4]. [Click the image to enlarge]

Step 5: record the findings

Once the memorial is found, and if of interest to me, I download the image to a sub-folder within the already created folder Land index Cork 1708-1739.

Importantly each downloaded image should be saved in the appropriate folder and with a consistent naming code which helps trace the file name to its source, such as: li-1708-1739-v66-p516-m48111-blair-goold.

I then enter this information in a separate spreadsheet noting any reference to a McCarthy, for example, shown in the image below.

An image from my spreadsheet where I enter the details of any Kilbarry memorials of interest, with the details of McCarthy highlighted for ease of reference . [Click the image to enlarge]

I continue this process for the rest of the “K” index in the four different time periods listed above. Importantly, I record any reference to a McCarthy in the townland, as well as inputting additional comments for future reference. Overall, this allows me to create a chronological record for a given place during a set time span focused on a particular family, as well as other types of information of interest.


While using the finding aids on the RDIPI can speed up the process, giving the user the option to jump to the first letter of a townland within an index, the site does not cover the complete time periods recorded. The last 109 years (1820–1929) are not linked up to their “Find Townland letter” function. Though these time blocks are available on FamilySearch, the downside is that this site does not provide the search function that allows a researcher to dig into them.

However, as both the aforementioned sites do not give extensive finding aids to search the complete set of registry volumes, I believe that the search system I am utilising is one approach that can help the investigation within a set period (a least up to 1819). Granted, as a means of executing research, the method of reviewing each digitised page is a slow laboriously task. However, the upside of going through each entry is that it provides the researcher with an opportunity to come across other family names and townlands, as well as other small nuggets of information which may otherwise been missed when using finding aids.

Finally, keeping a consistent record of the files downloaded and a corresponding spreadsheet is important. It can make the work all the more useful and of value when going back over the research helping to create a comprehensive picture and understanding of the family and time periods being examined.



  1. Reddan, N. (n.d.) “Registry of Deeds Reading Room”. Retrieved from https://www.irishancestors.ie/early-marriage-index
  2. Genealogical Society of Utah. (1951). Registry of Deeds (Main Author). Transcripts of memorials of deeds, conveyances and wills, 1708-1929. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah.
  3. Genealogical Society of Utah. (1951). Registry of Deeds (Main Author). Transcripts of memorials of deeds, conveyances and wills, 1708-1929. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah.
  4. Genealogical Society of Utah. (1951). Registry of Deeds (Main Author). Transcripts of memorials of deeds, conveyances and wills, 1708-1929. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Additional RESOURCES 






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