A freeholder was a person who held a lease on land worth a certain amount. The records generated show the name of the freeholder, the residence, and where the freehold was located. If they met the qualification, they were given the right to vote in elections. Do not make the blanket assumption that an ancestor did not qualify because they were a farmer. The laws changed over time, which in some cases allowed new voters the right, and at other times potential voters were stripped of the right.
Freeholders’ registers provide clues as to where someone was living, and to their social status. A freeholder family may not have been rich, but they were not among the poorest of the poor either. Freeholds could be multi-generational passed down in a family, or be valid for “three lives” named in the deed (often a family).
From 1727-1793 only Protestants with a forty-shilling freehold or above qualified to vote. In 1793 Catholics with at least a forty-shilling freehold were given the opportunity to vote. Forty-shilling freeholders, whether Catholic or Protestant, had the vote 1793-1829. In 1829, all forty-shilling freeholders lost the vote, and from that date a £10 freehold was required to qualify to vote.Major collections can be found at the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI), the National Archives of Ireland and the National Library of Ireland. Many have been microfilmed and are at the Family History Library. The PRONI collections have been mostly scanned and indexed in their database “Freeholders’ Records” www.proni.gov.uk/index/search_the_archives/freeholders_records.htm
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