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Archiver > Scotch-Irish > 2000-11 > 0975637151

From: <>
Subject: Re: Oldest Presbyterian (Protestant) Sons
Date: Thu, 30 Nov 2000 18:19:11 -0800

Hi Barb,

I do not think you can tell, especially for Presbyterians in
Ireland. Reason: differing traditions among different ethnic
groups within the British Isles as well as the fact that
inheritance laws generally did not apply (since the farmer did
not in fact own his farm but only had a lease on it) -- so the
farmer was free to do what he wished, as far as the government
was concerned.

The English, I beleive Norman, rule was primogeniture. This means
the eldest son born in legal wedlock inherited. I was recently
reading an article about entailment (the process of tying inheritance
to male heirs). You could entail land yourself),
that you had purchased. You could choose to entail the land to
males only or to descendents. Often you received the land from
the king and it was entailed. So leaving it all to the eldest
son was both a custom and a legal situation.

However in Celtic cultures, the custom was to divide the property
(the cows, or whatever). One of the things that the English,
when they decided to civilize you, did, was enforce entailment.
Or so they did to the Welsh and struggled to produce uniformity
throughout England. Except that they did not do this in Ireland
because the Irish were specifically disinherited and they wanted
to further break up estates into smaller and smaller lots to ensure
that through heirs marrying heirs huge estates didn't evolve. This
was important in an era when "voting priveleges" were tied to how much
land you owned. Beneath it all you had the peasants and the middle
class merchants who owned very little land outright, though
sometimes the merchants managed to change that. They tended to follow
custom with their own leases.

However they were not so stupid as to not realize that if they
continued to subdivide that soon all their descendents would be
impoverished, so custom had to change. The change was that one
child would take on the lease. If you read various novels you see
that that was often the one who married. The others couldn't
marry -- they had no means of support. Unless they married a
girl with land of her own. Or had a trade.

I don't know of a book that covers specifically Ulster Scot custom
in Ireland. You can find a discussion of inheritance custom in
Bardon's book on Ulster. Generally the further back in time you
go in Ulster, the less there are two peoples and the more there
is one. If you read the Ordinance Survey Memoirs, they describe
one people, Presbyterians and Catholics, whose customs largely
were the same. Except that the Catholics appear to have had more
fun. By that date, we were told in the Memoirs for I think it
was the Ballymena area, the Presbyterian ministers had managed to
stop the Presbyterians from having drunken wakes and dancing.
The only recreation Protestants had was reading books. Sounded
very dreary to me.

The point is Presbyterians by law could not own land. Since they
would have held land by lease, they were free to follow local custom
and not bound by law. If they conformed to the C Hurch of Ireland,
and they owned land, then if the land was entailed, it went to their
legal heir.

The other differences you would find in inheritance of leases
of land is that Catholics were limited to three year leases --
so they really didn't have a lease to pass down, while Presbyterians
could have 3 life leases.

Linda Merle

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