Richard Griffith's Valuation a mid-19th century gem
In the absence of census returns, Irish genealogy research in the 19th century relies on Griffith's Valuation
It was not, however, a census. It was never intended to be one, nor to be a substitute for one. Instead, it was a land survey and, as such, it has some limitations because it was not designed to do what we, one and a half centuries later, would really like it to do! That is, locate and deliver our ancestors in a neat and simple format. If only it could!
Even so, Griffith's Valuation may be able to really move your search on.
To get the best from it, it is worth appreciating its purpose at the time it was compiled, and understanding the instructions given by Richard Griffiths to the 'valuers' who gathered the information it contains.
Between 1847 and 1864, Richard Griffith, the director of the Valuation Office in Dublin, carried out a land survey of Ireland so that liability for the Poor Rate (which supported the poor and destitute) could be calculated. His Valuation full name The General Valuation of the Rateable Property in Ireland is essentially a list of households, created in the mid-19th century, for the whole of Ireland.
So who is it of use to? Nearly all genealogists will find Griffith's Valuation useful. If you don't know where your family lived, you may be able to narrow down the possibilities by finding the parishes where your ancestor's surname was prevalent.
This can help you identify the most appropriate church registers to start your search. If your ancestor emigrated in the mid to late 1800s, you may find him at home before he left. Even if he set sail before Griffith's Valuation was published and subsequently married abroad, you should find his father's name on both his marriage certificate and in the survey at the ancestral home.
Of course, if you know your ancestors' townland (whether or not they emigrated), Griffith's Valuation will allow you to collect detailed information about their lives and their neighbourhood.
For researchers who don't know where their ancestors lived, Griffiths Valuation can help narrow down locations areas where their surname was most prevalent and so identify areas for further study. A printed Index to Householders, showing how many times a particular surname appears in each region, is available in many repositories and can also be readily found online. However, the Ask About Ireland website (see link below) has become the most popular way to search Griffith's Valuation by surname since it was launched in 2008.Each entry in Griffith's Valuation contains:
How and why was Griffith's Valuation produced?
The need for the Valuation stemmed from the Governments recognition that the existing taxation system was too inconsistent. In the early 19th century, taxes were based on property but varied from county to county. The Government wanted to create a consistent system and needed to find out who its people were and how much they might be able to tax them.
Griffiths Primary Valuation took almost 30 years from the early 1820s to the late 1840s to produce. First the Ordnance Survey (Army Engineers) and the Boundary Commission were sent to Ireland to identify and fix administrative boundaries, and the next step was to assess property value in a uniform manner across the island.
The Valuation is arranged by county, barony, Poor Law Union, civil parish and townland (see Irish land divisions if you are unfamiliar with these terms). It lists pretty much every occupier of property in Ireland. In rural areas this meant every house (a loose description) while in urban areas it also meant every tenement within multiple occupancy buildings.
The information collected from each occupier was cross-referenced with the Ordnance Survey map of Ireland so that each individual occupier is identified by townland name (or street address). In addition, the following details are recorded: the name of the occupiers landlord ie the person from whom the occupier was renting (immediate lessor), a brief description of the property; its acreage, and a valuation of land and buildings.
Each occupiers reference can be found on the relevant Ordnance Survey maps (which survive intact). This allows todays genealogists to identify the exact piece of land their ancestors lived on back then.
Three types of notebook were used by the Valuers:
Like father, like sonThe men who worked as Valuers were native born Irish and understood traditional naming patterns and the use of a father's first name to distinguish between men who had the same name.
In townlands where a surname was common, the Valuers distinguished between individuals in various ways. Typically, they would add, in brackets after a person's name, the first name of that person's father.
So, for example, John Tobin (Patrick) is the son of Patrick Tobin, whereas John Tobin (Micheal) is the son of Michael Tobin. Where relevant, the abbreviations Snr (Senior, or father) and Jnr (Junior, or son) were sometimes used.
Similarly, occupations were sometimes used as identifiers ie Jeremiah Crowley (farmer) and Jeremiah Crowley (victualler).
Such entries are usually a great bonus because there may be no other document in existence to provide these genealogical nuggets.
These notebooks also document any changes in occupation between the initial survey and the final published survey.
Where can Griffith's Valuation be studied?
The printed Griffith's Valuation for the whole of Ireland can be accessed at the National Library, the Valuation Office and the National Archives, all in Dublin. For Northern Ireland counties, it is additionallly available at PRONI in Belfast.
Several subscription and pay-per-view genealogy websites also give access to some or all of the published version and maps but the only free site that I know of is Ask about Ireland (see below).
Indexes of Householders are available at some regional libraries and on some regional websites (which should be easy enough to locate in search engines).
The manuscript records of the survey ie the field books, housebooks and tenure books, which contain additional info to that found in the published Valuation, are at the National Archives in Dublin.
Changes in landholdings since the original Valuation are held in records known as the Cancelled Land Books and the Current Land Books. These contain details of all changes in holdings since Griffith's Valuation to the 1970s (only until 1929 in Northern Ireland).
Colour coded, they can be extremely useful for helping genealogists to calculate significant dates in their family's history such as dates of emigration or death, and to help find living descendents.
They are held by the Valuation Office in Dublin and by PRONI in Belfast.
*Photo reproduced with kind permission of National Archives of Ireland