Family history documents not only help us to imagine what life would have been like for our ancestors but also help us to portray a sign of the times, often highlighting certain injustices of the past.

John Folliott was a wealthy Englishman who owned land in the north of Ireland. His 1779 – 1780 rent book shows that he collected rent every six months from tenants in the counties of Sligo and Donegal. 

Land was confiscated from Gaelic clans all over Ireland throughout the 16th and 17th century and granted by the Crown authority to colonists from Britain. This would almost certainly be how the Folliott family came to own land in Ireland.

By the 1800’s most Irish families were impoverished tenant farmers, generally in debt to their British landlords. The need to survive on small plots of rented land created the perilous situation where vast numbers of people depended on the potato crop for survival.

The failure of the potato harvest from 1845 – 1847 caused by a fungus that struck the potato plants was responsible for the starvation of at least one million Irish people. Another one million emigrated to America. This was known as the ‘Great Irish Famine’.

Mr. John Folliott’s Irish rent book can be found in the Herbert Special Collection.

Dominick Gaffney who was a tenant of Mr. John Folliott in the county of Sligo paid £10 for six months rent in the year 1779.

DSC 1608 thumb Irish Rent Books

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