... or, What a Memorial of an Indented Deed is, and what it isn't.
During the past few months, while transcribing and indexing memorials of Irish deeds, I've noticed certain legal terms and turns of phrase. Historic newspapers are the same way: after a time, you begin to recognize patterns in language and style, and to understand contemporary expressions or idioms that have since become obsolete. In the case of the memorials, this holds true, but it would seem that, on occasion, a memorial was also a case of what was not being said, or was barely hinted or winked at.
For example, after stating that Party A had transferred or conveyed a parcel of land (or a tenement, park, etc.) to Party B, many memorials contain the phrase, "for the considerations therein mentioned." The reader is left with many unanswered questions, such as, what was given up by Party B in order to obtain the property of interest? Who benefited by this transaction, and by how much? Alternatively, did Party B convey something to A that A desperately required? Did the property approximate the value of the consideration? What form did the consideration take—was it money, a promise of money, a debt instrument, a partition of property? ... What price had been exacted, and on what terms, exactly??
To illustrate, we might consider the memorial of indented deeds of lease and release executed by William Stevenson of Edinburgh and his son, James Stevenson of Stewartstown, on 24 & 25 April 1751.  The essential facts of the transaction were recorded: the names of the contracting parties and their domiciles; a detailed description of what properties were conveyed by the Messrs. Stevenson; the names and domiciles of the witnesses; an indication as to which witnesses signed the memorial; the date, time, and place of registry; and the name and title of the registrar. However, nowhere is it stated what Mr. Craig and Mr. Kirk conveyed in return, and on what conditions.
Instead, the memorial states only that the properties were granted "for the considerations therein mentioned," to Mr. Craig "to the Intent & purpose in the s'd Deed of Release Expressed." It's as if these phrases were used deliberately, to cast a veil over the true nature or the fundamental bargain that was struck. This particular deed, then, provides an excellent example of an important feature of the registry system, that is, a memorial is not necessarily a true copy of a deed or conveyance.
In fact, the statute, or act, which gave rise to the registration of memorials in 1707—the Registration of Deeds Act (6th Anne, chap. 2)—stipulated that only certain data elements had to be included in a memorial. Indeed (pun acknowledged), one 19th century legal writer prefaced his outline of these elements with the phrase, In order to avoid unnecessary disclosure of private affairs. Thus, the new Act decreed that the memorial of a deed or conveyance need contain only the following information:
Any information given above and beyond these requirements, then, is a gift to the genealogist and the local historian. Examples of such bonuses include:
Likely, the parties, aided no doubt by their legal advisors, added such details to clarify their intents and purposes, and to avoid mistakes in interpretation.
Returning to the transaction whereby William Stevenson and James Stevenson granted most of their lands in the parish of Donaghenry, taken by itself, the Memorial doesn't tell us much. Instead, we have to consider it in the context of other memorials (including their dates of registration) and archival documents. For instance, in his last will and testament, proved four years earlier in 1747, Capt. James Stevenson referred to the considerable indebtedness of his unfortunate son William. From this date, a series of other deeds, together with biographical notes penned by one of his sons, suggest that the deeds of lease and release of 1751 may have involved a mortgage of the property, subject to the usual clause of redemption with interest and costs. If this were the case, then William would have been in a position to repay some or all of his debts and to start anew as a merchant in Edinburgh.
I will close this blog article with a list of references that have assisted my lay understanding of the registration of deeds in Ireland:
Needless to say, this list is hardly exhaustive, and there are any number of modern works written on the subject.
(penned 13th February 2015)
Kilpatrick, Alison. "For the considerations therein mentioned:
or, What a Memorial of an Indented Deed is, and what it isn't."
Blog article published to Arborealis, 18th
August 2018; online at www.arborealis.ca/blog/2016-08-18.html;
accessed [insert date of access].
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