- Griffith’s Valuation is not simply a list of names. It provides detailed information about land tenure, names of lessors and occupiers, their land and buildings. It records the occupier’s name, the extent of his holding, and the immediate landlord who is not necessarily the owner.
- It does not carry the names of married sons or daughters who may also occupy the dwelling.
Griffith’s Valuation (Primary Valuation of Tenements)
The Primary Valuation of Tenements, also known as Griffith’s Valuation, was undertaken in order to establish the value of land and buildings in Ireland as a basis for levying a local system of fair taxation under the Irish Poor Law Act of 1838. It was carried out by Richard Griffith and published between 1848 and 1864.
It is one of the most useful sources available as it lists every property holder in the country, with details of their houses, outbuildings, fields and gardens.
The Valuation was initially compiled on a barony basis with the later volumes arranged by Poor Law Union, further subdivided according to civil parishes and townlands.
The first column heading is ‘No. and Letters of Reference to Map’ which refers to the location of the tenement on the Valuation Office 6’’ to the mile townland maps. Under the column ‘Description of Tenement’, land and buildings are included, and under the column ‘Total Annual Value of Rateable Property’, the value of the property (on which rates or taxes may be based) is given.
The basis of Griffith’s survey is the townland, the smallest unit of civil administration in the country.
Within each townland is listed the full name of each person holding land with the exact area given in acres, roods, and perches. One rood is equal to a quarter acre which is equal to forty perches. People with land in more than one townland are listed in each and the townlands are arranged alphabetically within their civil parish. Parishes are arranged within their baronies (or Poor Law Unions), and baronies (or PLUs) are arranged by county.
With the passage of time, property occupiers died or bought and sold properties. In order to keep up with these changes the Valuation Office updated the information in manuscript ‘Revision Books’ and entered new details as appropriate. They used different colours of ink and tried to preserve them as neatly as possible. Inevitably the books became rather confusing and difficult to read. When the changes became too confusing the Revision Books were cancelled and new updated books begun. The cancelled Revision Books may be consulted at the Valuation Office.
The Valuation represents an impressive undertaking in terms of land survey and the amassing of valuable social and economic data. Its value to those seeking information on their ancestors is obvious, although it goes further by providing a detailed snapshot of Ireland in the years following the Great Famine. In this sense it can be regarded as more than just a taxation survey; it serves also as a census of Ireland during the 1850s, a period of social change when emigration was prevalent, especially in the west and south-west.
The population of Ireland, which had numbered over eight million in the 1841 census, had been reduced by two million between 1845 and 1850, by a combination of emigration and deaths from starvation and disease.
By 1911, the population was just under 4.5 million, a little over half that of 1845. There are many complementary genealogical sources, including church registers, census returns, and Tithe Applotment books, but Griffith’s Valuation retains a special place in the estimation of most researchers, perhaps attributable to its all-Ireland basis.
Where are the full details of the Griffith’s Valuation?
Please remember that you are searching an INDEX to the Griffith’s or Primary Valuation of Tenements. This Index will not display the full details of the valuation record; it will give a surname, first name, townland, parish and county. If you require the full details of a tenant please see www.askaboutireland.ie
What time period is covered by the Griffith’s Valuation?
It was published in stages over the period 1848 to 1864 as a contemporary record.
Territorial Designations in Griffith’s Valuation
The main entry point for users of the index to Griffith’s Valuation will be via surname. Anyone embarking on ancestral research will know which surname(s) they wish to check or discover, though this does not necessarily mean they will find them. The more focused the area being searched the greater the chance of discovering one’s ancestors. Most researchers will know which county they wish to search while others will be able to focus on a particular parish or parishes. In a few instances, researchers will know which townland they are interested in searching.
Townlands are the basic territorial unit, with more than 60,000 of them in the country. Despite the name they have nothing to do with towns in the sense in which these are commonly understood, and instead denote an area of land. Townlands range in size from a few acres to the largest, Sheskin, in County Mayo, which covers more than 7,000 acres. Each is intimately known by local inhabitants, and usually possesses some physical characteristic (hill, stream, swamp) or manmade feature (church, field, fort) to explain its name.
Townlands are arranged in civil parishes, of which there are about 2,500 in Ireland. These developed as part of the ecclesiastical infrastructure in the medieval period, when Ireland adopted the parish structure to replace the former monastic arrangement. Later the parish became adopted as the basis of civil administration.
After parishes in the territorial hierarchy are the thirty-two counties of Ireland, though it must be remembered that in many cases parishes cross county boundaries. Counties date from the mid-thirteenth to the early seventeenth century, marking the long process of English domination begun by the Normans and completed under James I in the Plantation of Ulster. Irish counties are grouped into four provinces – five counties in Connaught, twelve in Leinster, six in Munster, and nine in Ulster. Irish people tend to identify strongly with their county as, for example, Americans identify with their home states.
Users of Griffith’s Valuation will encounter two further administrative designations, baronies and poor law unions. Baronies were introduced in Norman times and were based roughly on ancient tribal territories; each contained a number of parishes. A very useful guide for anyone interested in identifying particular places in Ireland is the “General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland,” (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1984). Poor law unions were drawn up as part of the system of relief following the 1838 Poor Law Act. Similar to baronies (though larger) they comprised a number of parishes and there were typically four or five to a county.
Surnames are the most obvious key for any researcher, and users of this index should bear in mind that many variants exist of practically every Irish surname. The policy in preparing the index was to be faithful to the form of a particular name as it appeared in the original survey. All dwellings listed as vacant or unoccupied have been omitted.
(Many thanks to Eoin Kerr and Willie O’Kane of Irish World, for providing the IFHF with the Index to Griffith’s Valuation.)
Tithe Applotment books
The Tithe Applotment books provide a record of the titheable land in each Church of Ireland parish and were compiled in accordance with the Irish Tithe Composition Acts passed between 1823 and 1838. They are useful as a census substitute as they contain a listing of rural taxpayers in the 1820s and 1830s. Tithes were the tax paid to Established Church (Church of Ireland), calculated as one-tenth of the rateable value of one’s agricultural produce. The information was recorded under the following headings: occupier, classification of land, amount of tithe payable, a summary of the townland and parish totals and a list of landowners’ names. The books were handwritten and spelling of names and location vary. The Church of Ireland parish covered the same area as the later civil parish in most instances.
Although an excellent genealogical source, it was only concerned with tithe payers, thus excluding other classes such as cottiers, landless labourers and those living in urban settlements. It cannot be considered a comprehensive record.
Microfilm copies of the Tithe books can be accessed in local libraries and in the NAI Reading Room. There is also another online version on the NAI website.