Griffith’s Valuation as a Source for Irish Family History
Other than a few fragments, nineteenth century Irish census records do not survive, either having been destroyed by government order, pulped for paper during the First World War or lost in the Public Record Office fire of 1922. Irish genealogists must therefore rely on records that act as ‘census substitutes’ to find out information about families and households, and determine whether a family was resident in a townland or parish at a particular time.
Griffith’s Valuation is one of the most important sources for Irish local and family historians. It is the most comprehensive household survey that survives for the mid-nineteenth century, providing an insight into households in the period between the Famine and the start of civil registration in 1864. Conducted for taxation purposes, it is a very detailed and reliable source, including information on how much land people occupied and its value. Information on all landholdings – from cottiers’ cabins to the big houses of the Anglo-Irish landlords – is included. Eneclann estimates that Griffith’s Valuation may record the heads of households of 90% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population. The figure is lower for those in towns and cities because many houses were sub-let into flats, known as tenements, and Griffith’s Valuation only recorded the rate-payer.
What is Griffith’s Valuation?
Between 1847 and 1864, Richard Griffith was responsible for conducting the Primary Valuation of Tenements (generally referred to as Griffith’s Valuation because of his role in the project). The aim of the valuation was to produce a uniform guide to the relative value of land throughout the whole country. The project required Griffith and a team of valuers to determine the value of every piece of land and property in Ireland so that tax due by each occupier could be assessed. The information they collated covered all of Ireland and was compiled into over 300 volumes.
Initially, pamphlets were created for each Barony as required by the 1846 Act of Parliament which set out the requirements for the valuation. This Act also required three publications for each Barony: a full valuation, appeals made against it, and a revised version. A subsequent Act of 1852 required pamphlets to be organised on a county-by-county basis by Poor Law Union and removed the requirement for amendments or revisions. So, what we call Griffith’s Valuation is not one publication, but a series of pamphlets relating to different areas of Ireland, some of which have more than one version. It is important to understand this because, if your family came from an area for which there is more than one pamphlet, you might discover that the information varies between first and last publications, indicating that the family may have bought or sold land, left the area, or revealing that the land had passed on from one family member to another.
Griffith’s Valuation Online
All known surviving pamphlets have been digitised and are available online as ‘Griffith’s Valuation’. Eneclann, working in partnership with the National Library of Ireland, digitised the version that is available on three Irish family history websites: Findmypast.ie, Irish Origins and Ask About Ireland. No library or archive in the world contains a complete run of the pamphlets (even the National Library of Ireland holds only approximately half to a third of the originals), so the team had to track pamphlets down in libraries, archives and private collections in the United Kingdom, North America and Australia as well as in Ireland in order to create the most comprehensive version.
How to Search Griffith’s Valuation for your ancestors
1. First of all identify the ancestor you are looking for. If you have an ancestor who was in their seventies or eighties in the 1901 census, you could try seeing if you can find them in the same location in Griffith’s Valuation. Otherwise, you might be able to find an ancestor’s parent or relative living in the same location. You will be able to establish the barony, townland and parish your ancestor lived in by looking at Form N or B1 on the National Archives’ 1901 census online.
2. Now, go to an online version of Griffith’s Valuation such as Findmypast.ie, Irish Origins or Ask About Ireland.
3. If your family surname is reasonably unusual then you may only need to search on the name and the county you believe your ancestors came from. If it is a more common name it makes sense to start your search using the surname, county and barony, union and parish (as recorded in Forms N and B1 on the census).
4. Click on the search results and you will be taken to a page like the one shown below. If you find a family of the same name as the one you are researching, then this could quite possibly be your family. However, you should corroborate this information with other sources, such as parish records and Cancelled Books, in order to be certain that this is the right family. If you don’t find your family, then you can pinpoint when they moved to this area by consulting the Cancelled Books in the Valuation Office in Dublin. These note any changes in holding since Griffith’s Valuation (for instance, size of holding or occupier).
Interpreting the information found in Griffith’s Valuation
To read the article in full click here - Irish Roots Magazine
Griffith’s Valuation Online
Irish Origins – Paying site. Includes the original Griffith’s maps, so you can pinpoint exactly where your ancestors lived www.britishorigins.com
Ask About Ireland – Free site. Includes maps but these are not the original Griffith’s maps, so can be inaccurate. www.askaboutireland.ie
Find My Past – Paying site. Currently working to put colour versions of the original maps online for the first time. They also have over 5 million other unique records. www.findmypast.ie
This article is from Irish Roots magazine – issue no 79 – www.irishrootsmagazine.com
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