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.
The Index to the Surnames in Griffith’s/Primary Valuation of Tenements has been compiled showing the occurrence of surnames in each county on a barony/townland basis. This can be a useful indicator of the possible location of a particular family especially if the surname is an uncommon one. The original Valuation manuscripts are held in the National Archives.
You may search this index at no charge
Anyone who has engaged in genealogical work knows the value of names, not just those of people, but also of places. These are the twin keys which open up the possibilities of ancestral research, shedding light on a family's origins. Genealogists must track down and make use of all the possible sources of information accessible; birth, marriage or death records, census data, passenger lists, muster rolls, estate records and so on. All of these sources are, in essence, lists of names, and were compiled for various administrative reasons. In order to make sense of this plethora of names we must anchor them to places and localities; if we are able to match what we already know of our own family to a name or a place in some old register then we are well on the path to finding our roots.
Of the Irish records available to the genealogical researcher, one of the most useful is the Primary Valuation of Tenements carried out between 1848 and 1864. This listed every property holder in the country, with details of their houses, outbuildings, fields and gardens. The purpose of the vast survey was financial; to estimate the net annual value of every property in Ireland and determine the local taxation rate payable by each householder. The survey is commonly known as Griffith's Valuation after Sir Richard Griffith who oversaw the work. Griffith, by training an engineer and geologist, was an administrator of exceptional energy. He was widely involved in public projects and was appointed Commissioner of Valuation in 1827 after the Irish Valuation Act was passed.
The Valuation was compiled on a barony basis and further subdivided according to townlands, civil parishes and the electoral divisions of Poor Law Unions. In the printed version the first column heading is number and letters of reference to map which refers to the location of the tenement on the 6’’ to the mile townland maps. Under the column description of tenement, land and buildings are included, and under the column net annual value, the annual rent expected, including maintenance and taxes and excluding the tithe rent, is given.
The basis of Griffith's survey is the townland, the smallest unit of civil administration in the country. Ireland is the only country to have townlands; their origin dates back at least to Anglo-Norman times. Within each townland is listed the full name of each person holding land with the exact area given in acres, rod, and perches. One rod 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, and baronies are arranged by county. Of course, with the passage of time, landowners died or bought and sold properties, even during the decade and a half that the survey lasted. In order to keep up with these changes the taxation officials kept manuscript copies of the original valuation books and entered new details as appropriate. They used different colors of ink and tried to preserve them as neatly as possible. Inevitably the books became rather confusing and difficult to read. When the finished books were published the information was as up to date as possible while the old "cancelled" books for individual districts were kept together in bound volumes in the Valuation Office.
Griffith’s Valuation 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. However, one must bear in mind that it does not carry names of married sons or daughters for example, who may also occupy the dwelling. The information on towns is equally important, as the individual tenements were arranged according to streets. It is the only general assessment of land values in Ireland.
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 at prevalent, especially in the west and southwest. 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. In succeeding decades this outflow of people continued as landlords cleared people from their estates and more efficient large-scale grazing operations replaced intensive cropping of small holdings. 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 contact the individual county centre.
What time period is covered by the Griffith's Valuation?
The index covers the period 1848-1864.
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 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, both of which have long been obsolete. 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 they comprised a number of parishes and there were typically four or five to a county.
If, after using this index, you wish to find out details about any person listed therein, please reference the microfiche or microfilm versions of Griffith's Valuation. With the microfiche version there will be several fiches per county. You will notice that there is an index fiche(s) for each county, and this is where to start. This index will detail the name of the parish you are seeking, the fiche number, the section letter and the page number. Simply note these details and then proceed to the appropriate fiche where you will find details relating to the size of the holding, the various building and the amount of annual valuation. Alternatively, you could contact Heritage World for additional information.
The index to Griffith's Valuation will enable family historians to find the names of every occupier of land and property in Ireland between 1848 and 1864. No details are provided as to size of holdings or annual valuation; it would not be feasible to include such a large amount of material within what must be a succinct and manageable format. However, those wishing to find out further information on particular names are directed either to the microfilm or the microfiche versions of Griffith's Valuation which you may find at various libraries.
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.)