An overview of the early property records

Libri Assedationis


The Libri Assedationis (latin for setting books) list all of the Lord of Mann's lands together with the name of the tenant and the annual rent which they are liable for. The singular is Liber Assedationis and this is often abbreviated to Liber Assed. The order of these entries is fixed although additional property (primarily intacks formed from waste land) was added over time. Following the rents they also record other forms of income for the Lord (specifically payments by his officers and various fines payable).


The original Liber Assedationis manuscripts are gathered into "books" (or more properly a set of pages bound together without a cover). Each book contains the records for either the North or South side parishes. The original manuscripts are stored grouped together into boxes (with perhaps a dozen to a box), organised such that each box only contains North or Side side records. Often books were bound together into huge volumes. The books in such a box or volume are not necessarily contiguous in time. The records have clearly been microfilmed in a similar manner and the ordering of years is therefore rather haphazard. Many of the early documents are fragile.


Records survive from the early 16th century. They were produced almost every year up to the Act of Settlement in 1703. After this date they became much more infrequent - produced roughly every 10 years until 1760.



Libri Vastarum


The Libri Vastarum (or wast books) record any changes to the tenancy of any of the Lord's lands. The singular is Liber Vastarum and this is often abbreviated to Liber Vast. Typically each entry gives sufficient information to identify the old Liber Assedationis entry and gives the name of the old and new tenant. From around 1590 onwards it also gives an explanation of why the new tenant is entered. Often the new tenant is the heir to a deceased predecessor and in such cases the relationship between the two is frequently given. It is such comments which make the Liber Vastarum entries of particular genealogical interest.


The Liber Vastarum is essentially a list of changes which were reported to an appointed jury (the Setting Quest) at the Sheading Court. Prior to the Act of Settlement in 1704, the Liber Vastarum was normally produced annually. Subsequent to this year, books were produced for two Sheading Courts which were held in or around May and October each year. Also in 1704 an alienation fine (essentially a tax) became payable on the transfer of composed land. Where appropriate, this fine is also recorded.


Unfortunately not all land transfers were reported at the time and this can produce gaps in the record of tenancy. The Liber Assedationis was created using the Liber Vastarum and is thus similarly lacking. In some cases (and nearly always after 1704) a later entry relating to the property documents all previous transfers back to the last recorded tenant.


The Libri Vastarum records were originally gathered together into books much like the Libri Assedationis. These books however combine both North and South Side records and have been bound together into huge volumes which are ordered by year. One such volume has about 1500 pages containing almost the entire and ordered records for 1655-1700. These volumes have been microfilmed and are virtually complete from 1575 onwards. Prior to this date the first volume (which is too fragile to consult) only contains a handful of years. At the end it includes five undated years which appear to be out of order. Also at least one early (undated) Liber Vastarum year can be found amongst Libri Assedationis records. It seems possible that a much more complete set of the early Libri Vastarum records has survived, but that these have never been gathered together.


The manuscript for 1699 is badly damaged and was not microfilmed.


Barony Records


More than 80% of tenants held their lands directly from the Lord and the associated records are described above. The remainder (those occupying Baronial lands) were administered differently. Land transfers were confirmed by the relevant baronial court and are included in the Libri Monasteriorum (Abbey lands), Libri Episcopalis (the Bishop's Barony) or the Libri Bangor & Saball (for the Barony of Bangor and Saball). Separate accounts and rental books were also produced for each barony.


Composition Book


The composition books are concerned with the conditions under which a tenant holds his lands from the Lord. The oldest (from 1593) details the food provisions which the principal tenants were required to deliver as part of their customary duty. (These were largely converted to a monetary payment in 1602.) In 1643 a new system was introduced which confirmed the tenancy for (most commonly) the duration of three lives (ie until three individuals named in 1643 had all died) subject to the payment of an initial fine, but the annual rent was unaffected. In the Lord's view the land returned to him following the decease of all three lives, to do with as he would. The tenants believed that they should retain tenure however (as was the case before 1643). The contention which arose was ultimately resolved by the Act of Settlement in 1704.


The Barony lands are also included in the composition books, however the 1643 compositions were often for 21 years rather than for lives. (There are also some other differences between the customary obligations of the Baron's tenants.)


The most useful records for genealogy are those relating to the individuals corresponding to the three lives. They were often relatives of the tenant and where this is so their relationship with the tenant is recorded. By combining the records for multiple years it is often often to obtain a rough estimate of their birth and death years also. Unlike the Libri Vastarum and Libri Assedationis, the composition records were kept up to date. They are generally organised by individual (rather than property) however which makes cross-referencing more difficult.


There are actually five composition books, the originals of which are stored in four boxes at the Manx Library in Douglas. The five books are labelled as follows:


1) c1593 Composition book
2) Compositions for abbey lands and intacks
3) 1612 &c vol 2
4) 1613-1691
5) c1703

The first book contains several Libri Assedationis for South Side parishes.


Property Deeds


Property deeds are individual contracts between the parties to a land transfer and the original document was typically deposited. They can provide extra information about the parties including the names of spouses and possibly other relatives with an interest in the land. They can also provide extra detail about the land itself.


Prior to 1690 or so, most deposited deeds were bound together or copied into the Libri Cancellarii (which make up the official record of the Chancery Court). After this date they are most commonly held as individual documents. In both cases the original documents are held by the Manx Library. The have not been microfilmed. Some early deeds can be found elsewhere however (including in the Libri Vastarum and Libri Scaccarii) and a few are therefore included in the microfilm copies of these records.