In 1796, the Board of Trustees of the Linen and Hempen Manufacturers of Ireland wanted to encourage the growth of flax and hemp seed. To do this, they awarded spinning wheels, reels or looms, in proportion to the acreage sown. As a result of this incentive, many landowners allocated part of their land to flax and hemp crops. County inspectors were appointed to receive claims from the growers and county lists were published as official documents of the Board.
Ulster had 64.6% of the wheels, the remaining were distributed throughout Ireland. (No records exist for Dublin and Wexford. Either they received no wheels or, the records have been lost.)
Only one copy of the records is known to survive and is now part of a special collection or rare books held in the Linen Hall Library of Belfast.
All-Ireland Heritage transcribed the surnames from these records, giving the names of the recipient, the county, parish and number of spinning wheels. We purchased this surname index from All- Ireland Heritage several years ago. It is on microfiche and is part of the Irish Genealogical Society's library which is maintained at the MGS office and Library. The index contains approximately 50,000 names. Microfiche reading machines are available at the Library. Plan to visit on Irish Day and you'll be sure to get some help.
For additional information on these records, refer to The All - Ireland Heritage, Vol. 1, No. 1 and Vol. 2, No. 2 (available at MGS Library). (Virginia Mahoney)