The full name is Return of Owners of Land of One Acre and Upwards, in the Several Counties, Counties of Cities, and Counties of Towns in Ireland.
In the mid 1800s, land ownership was a disputed subject. Karl Marx lived in London. His writings influenced political thought and there was a lot of controversy over the distribution of landed property, the “monopoly of land.”
The House of Lords, made up of the Victorian landed classes, wished to counter the political movement for land redistribution. Opponents asserted that nearly all the land was owned by a ruling elite, and there was no documentation to state otherwise.
So, it was decided to prepare a report, to find out “the number of proprietors of land and houses in the United Kingdom, with the quantity of land owned by each proprietor.”
The reports were returned to the Local Government Board where the information was alphabetized and organized by county. The report was published in 1876.
“In 1873 the Local Government Board in Ireland set about to ascertain the number and names of owners of land of one acre and upwards in Ireland. Clerks of the Poor Law Unions were called upon to draw up lists of such persons from the property valuation and rate books in their custody. The lists were ‘returned’ to the Local Government Boards by the end of 1875, arranged into counties, alphabetized, and finally published in 1876 as a Parliamentary paper under the title Return of Owners of Land of One Acre and Upwards, in the Several Counties, Counties of Cities, and Counties of Towns in Ireland (similar returns for England and Wales were published at the same time).
“Since the returns include the names of small land owners as well as large – owners of modest acres as well as great estates – they stand as a census of a significant proportion of the population of Ireland in 1876, and no doubt contain the names of many people who were related to emigrants of an earlier period. (There were 32,614 owners of land of one acre and upwards, incidentally, and 36,144 owners of less than one acre, this latter group not named of course.)
“The returns are organized by provinces (Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connaught) then by counties and…”
Irish Georgian Society Newsletter 1988 by Desmond Guinness
The page is cut off at this point, so that’s all I’ve got.
The holdings were measured in acres, roods and poles. An Irish acre was quite a bit larger than an English acre. I am guessing they were using English acres for consistency with the same Return (Report) in England, Wales and Scotland. A rood is one quarter acre. A pole, also called a rod or perch measured 16 1/2 feet.
The report was to find out how much land each owner had, not to see who lived where. The report was organized by the location of the owner, not the location of the land. If the owner had extensive land that stretched across many areas or if the owner lived elsewhere, the address doesn’t match the land.
The Return of Owners of Land in Ireland 1876 was compared with the Domesday Book survey of 1086. It was the first report since then.
There were inaccuracies. In 1883, John Bateman published The Great Landowners of Great Britain and Ireland, a corrected revised edition The Return of Owners of Land in Ireland.