Victorian Returns of Owners of Land in England, Wales, Scotland & Ireland – Great Genealogy Source. It has been said that this survey, taken in 1873, of owners of land in England and Wales is the first complete record of who owned what piece of land since the Domesday Book of 1086. It was commissioned because there had been public unrest about what was seen as a monopoly of land ownership by the elite of society. The purpose of the survey was to show that this was incorrect and that land ownership was not confined to the very wealthy, whether this point was made is debatable, but we are grateful for the creation of the records!
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There was one return for England & Wales (excluding London) and separate returns for Scotland and Ireland. The survey was compiled from the records held by the local Poor Law Board of Governors. The wealthy were levied a rate to assist with the maintenance of the poor and the rate was calculated by land ownership. These rating records are another valuable genealogy resource and are slowly coming online at websites like Ancestry and FindMyPast. The returns that we have access to in this dataset are printed volumes not the working papers of the clerks who compiled the original data.
It is always a good habit to foster to know a little about why the records you are searching were originally created. It informs your opinion as to how trustworthy they are and if there was any hidden motives behind there creation. You need to know what questions were asked as well as the answers and how the data was collected. An example is the census, once you know that from 1841 – 1901 the enumerator asked the questions, wrote down the answers and then copied those answers into the form you now see, you can understand how mistakes were made along the way.
I digress, back to the Victorian Returns of Owners of Land in England, Wales, Scotland & Ireland !
Victorian Returns of Owners of Land in England, Wales, Scotland & Ireland – what do the records offer?
The records are divided into counties and then alphabetically by owners. So the data given is
- Population of the county in at the time of the 1871 census
- Inhabited houses in the county
- No. of parishes
- Name of landowner
- Address of landowner
- Extent of lands in acres, roods and poles
- Gross estimated yearly rental of all holdings of over one acre
Take in account that the address of the landowner may not be where the land owned is situated. From a genealogical point of view it would have been good to have had the actual address of each piece of land! However this information could be found from earlier Tithe Maps (1842) or the rating books mentioned above.
After the presentation to both the House of Commons and House of Lords it was recognized that the survey contains a significant number of errors and eventually another publication (somewhat more limited in it’s focus) was issued where the original survey data was used, but was checked, amended and added to. This work was published in 1876 with the short and snappy title of “The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland, A list of all owners of Three thousand acres and upwards, worth £3,000 a year; Also, one thousand three hundred owners of Two thousand acres and upwards, in England, Scotland, Ireland, & Wales, their acreage and income from Land, Culled from ‘THE MODERN DOMESDAY BOOK”.
Victorian Returns of Owners of Land in England, Wales, Scotland & Ireland – where can the records be found online?
England, Return of Owners of Land, 1873 – Ancestry – CLICK HERE to access
Wales, Return of Owners of Land, 1873 – Ancestry – CLICK HERE to access
Ireland, Return of Owners of Land, 1876 – Ancestry – CLICK HERE to access
The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland – Hathi Trust – CLICK HERE to access
Scotland. Owners of lands and heritages, 17 & 18 Vict., cap. 91. 1872-73 – Hathi Trust – CLICK HERE to access
Victorian Returns of Owners of Land in England, Wales, Scotland & Ireland – Summary
This set of secondary records could be thought of having limited value, but they are quick to search and cover the counties where the Land tax Records aren’t online yet. The Scottish record is valuable by the fact that the Hathi Trust has it online free of charge and as Scottish genealogist will know researching Scottish ancestors can be an expensive business. If you have ancestors who owned large tracts of land then “The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland” is a must to search, again from the Hathi Trust free of charge.
Do take a look at these records and check if any of your ancestors were landowners. If they were then search for wills and probate documents as the land would have been bequeathed to someone. As with all family history one set of records can provide answers, but generally throw up more questions and the hunt for yet more genealogical data!
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