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Tithe Applotment Books

The earliest records of the poor in Ireland.

Tithe Applotment Books date from the decades prior to the Great Hunger and the mass emigration that followed it. As such, they predate the better known, and more comprehensive, Griffiths Valuation by at least a couple of decades.

They record the amount of Irish tithe, ie tax, due from each occupier of land, regardless of his religion, to support the clergy of the (Protestant) Church of Ireland.

Originally the tax – of one tenth of production – was paid by the farmer in produce. But in 1823, the Tithe Composition Act was introduced and allowed tithes to be paid in cash (actually, this had already become a fairly widespread practice).

Illustration of 19th century rural Leinster cottage. The Act also launched the Tithe Applotment Survey, a valuation of the entire island. Carried out civil parish by civil parish, the objective of the survey was to determine how much tithe each occupier of land ought to pay. The records contained in the Tithe Applotment books are arranged by townland and list the names of the each land occupier, the size and quality of their land, and the tithe deemed payable.

The tithe was calculated on the average price of oats and wheat between 1816 and 1823, while the quality ie productivity of the land was graded between 1 and 4, very good and very poor respectively.

Converting the values into modern currencies is pretty much meaningless but you can get an idea of how well off or badly off your ancestors were by simply comparing them to others in their townland.

You may come across the addition of 'and partners' or 'and Co' beside some entries in the Tithe Applotment books; this annotation does not suggest the formation of a business, but rather that land was held by a number of tenants in common.



The value of Tithe Applotment Books to Irish genealogists


The Tithe Applotment Books record the occupiers of tithe-eligible land, not householders. They are not population censuses.

What the books contain

Tithe Applotment Books are arranged by parish and contain the following information:

  • Land occupier's name
  • Townland
  • Area of landholding in acres
  • Land assessment grade 1-4
  • Calculation of tithe amount
  • Because the tithe was payable only by those who worked on agricultural land, you may not find your ancestors included.

    Those labourers who worked on agricultural land owned by the Church were exempt. So, too, were those labourers who did not rent land, as were those who lived and worked in urban areas.

    Even so, the books represent the earliest records for the poor of Ireland, a group for whom very few other genealogical records survive from this period.

    In fact, if your ancestors lived in one of the rural parishes for which no pre-1850 church registers exist, Tithe Applotment books may also be the only records available.



    Where to view the TABs

    Free access

    Northern Ireland TABs

    Tithe Applotment Books (TABs) for the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone are held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).

    Other than a few parishes that straddle the international border into Armagh, Derry, Down and Fermanagh), the TABs for the six counties are not included in the online collection released by the National Archives of Ireland.

    They are, however, included in the online collection available, for a fee, on Ancestry.

    On 8 November 2012, the National Archives of Ireland (NAI) released the Tithe Applotment Books for the 26 counties of the Irish Republic online, with free access on its dedicated genealogy website.

    While the database seems to have a number of inaccuracies – and the NAI do not currently have either manpower or funding for corrections – the availability of these records has been enthusiastically received by researchers.

    In the meantime, if your research via the free online facilities (NAI and FamilySearch are using the same database) runs into some of these inaccuracies, you can still gain access to the microfilms of the TABS. They are held at the NAI and National Library in Dublin, and through LDS Family History Centers.

    Pay to view

    Ancestry has the Tithe Applotment Books available in its searchable database. As far as I'm able to ascertain it includes both the collection held by PRONI and that held by the NAI, so coverage should span all surviving books.



    The Tithe War 1830-1838


    Quite apart from the obvious dislke for paying hard earned money to a minority church, the tithe was hated among Catholics because the poor (as ever) bore the brunt. Indeed, some wealthy landowners didn't pay anything while some tenants had to pay even though they farmed little more than a tiny potato patch. By the end of the 1820s, anger about these inequalities had reached a new level.

    Although history records the subsequent protests as the Tithe War, it was really only a rural campaign against the hated system.

    Protests had been made before. Groups known as the Whiteboys, the Oak Boys (1763) and the Hearts of Steel (1770s) had come and gone, but after the success of the campaign for Catholic emancipation, which was granted in 1829, there was a more widespread belief that protests could achieve desired results. A major distinction of the Tithe War was that this campaign had the support of larger farmers and the Catholic clergy.

    View over River Barrow at Graigenamanagh

    Graigenamanagh was the scene of violent protests in 1830

    Following a period of passive resistance, the tithe issue came to a head in 1830 after a confrontation in Graiguenamanagh in Co Kilkenny when the authorities turned up with the police and yeomanry to collect taxes which a group of Catholic farmers had withheld.

    This triggered widespread support for the anti-tithe campaign, especially among the Catholic clergy, and protests spread throughout Leinster and Munster. Although these were meant to be peaceful, there were fatalities. In June 1831, the yeomanry shot 14 protestors at Newtownbarry Co Wexford. Six months later, protesters killed an official and a dozen policemen in Carrickshock, Co Kilkenny.

    Apart from these flashes of violence, the campaign was mainly about non-payment. In some areas the amount of tithe collected was more than halved.

    Eventually, the authorities introduced The Tithe Rent Charge Act of 1838, which converted the tithe into a tax payable by landlords. What this actually meant was that the landlords included the tax in the tenant's rent. This wasn't welcome but it was certainly less contentious. The Irish tithe was finally abolished in 1869 when the Church of Ireland lost its status as Established Church.


    Where next?





    The Whiteboys

    So called for their coarse white linen overshirts or waistcoats and white veils hung from their hats, the Whiteboys represented an agrarian protest movement that originated in co. Tipperary in 1761 and then spread to the neighbouring counties of Waterford, Cork and Limerick.

    The Whiteboys were passionately opposed to payment of the tithe and they demonstrated this by damaging pastureland, farmland boundaries and streams and ditches. In the 1760s Whiteboy disturbances, violence was more a threat than a reality, but during the following decade, when the protest spread into Kilkenny, Carlow, Laois and Kildare, some nasty punishments were meted out by the insurgents.

    A further wave of Whiteboy protest occurred in the mid-1780s but this group is more correctly recalled as the Rightboys, after its fictitious leader 'Captain Right'. As with the earlier protesters, the Rightboys included cottiers and labourers, but their ranks also included some more affluent individuals and Protestants. This stage of the movement was much more organised and disciplined.

    During the Whiteboy and Rightboy demonstrations, violence against people was not unheard of and a variety of particularly nasty punishments were meted out to some tithe-collectors. A handful of deaths also occurred.





    Protest by default

    When Catholics withheld payment of the hated tithe in the 1830s, many Church of Ireland clergy lost a lot of income.

    They drew up lists of 'Tithe Defaulters', giving name, townland and, sometimes, occupation.

    Some 127 of these Tithe Defaulters' lists survive. They cover counties Kilkenny and Tipperary and partially cover counties Carlow, Cork, Kerry, Laois(Queen's Co.), Limerick, Louth, Meath, Offaly (King's Co.), Waterford and Wexford.

    The lists can be viewed (free) at the National Archives of Ireland in Dublin or (for a fee) on Irish Origins.




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