Richard Griffith's Valuation is one of the great gems among Irish genealogy resources. In the absence of any surviving pre-1901 censuses, beyond a few precious fragments and transcriptions, it is the most comprehensive mid-19th century resource available and can help direct genealogists to the exact plot of land where their ancestors lived.
It was not, however, a census, nor was it intended to be one.
Instead, it was a land survey and, as such, it has some limitations because it was not designed to do what we family historians, more than one and a half centuries later, would really like it to do! That is, locate and deliver our ancestors. If only!
Even so, Griffith's Valuation may be able to move your search on. To get the best from it, it's worth appreciating its purpose at the time it was compiled, understanding the instructions given by Richard Griffiths to the valuers/surveyors who gathered the information, and knowing the year it was carried out in your ancestor's county (see date map).
In the early 19th century, taxes were based on property and
the methods of calculation 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, so it tasked Richard Griffith, the
director of the Valuation Office in Dublin, to carry out a land survey.
The result was Griffith's Valuation – full name The General Valuation of the Rateable Property in Ireland but also known as the Primary Valuation (of Tenements) – a detailed guide of the property, land and households of mid-19th-century Ireland.
It is not a census. It covers who owned what and who rented what, and assessed the value on which each identifiable 'parcel' of land and/or property should be taxed.
Only the head of each household is identified. Family relationships and other personal information were not recorded.
For this reason, few women and no children are included. The very poorest ie those who lived on the verge of vagrancy in makeshift or temporary hovels were also excluded. Their numbers were small.
So who is it of use to? Nearly all Irish family historians will find Griffith's Valuation useful, and most will start with the Primary Valuation of Tenements, published county-by-county across the island between 1847 and 1864. See sample of a page from County Carlow above.
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, her or family at home before he left.
Even if he set sail before Griffith's Valuation was published (1847-1864, depending on county) and subsequently married abroad, you should find his father's name on both his marriage certificate and in the Primary Valuation at the ancestral home.
If you already know your ancestors' townland (whether or not they emigrated), Griffith's Valuation will also allow you to collect detailed information about their lives and their neighbourhood.
Some of this detail may be found in the
Notebooks used by the valuers as they carried out their work, or in the
Cancelled Land Books, also known as the Revision Books. See the Valuation Books page.
Each entry in Griffith's Valuation contains:
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 dwelling while in urban areas it also meant every household within multiple occupancy buildings ie tenements.
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 and its acreage
– 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.
To understand the information presented, see the detailed examples on the Richard Griffith's Valuation – Unlock the Code page.
Griffith's Primary Valuation of Tenements is now widely available online. It is available on Ancestry (in the Irish Wills, probate & tax collection) and FindMyPast as part of their subscription packages, and – for free – on AskAboutIreland (see Surname Research box above).
Original maps – those created as part of Griffith's
Valuation – can be viewed at FindMyPast... the only online database to match a
searchable Valuation to original maps. Slightly later maps can be married to
Valuation searches (free) on AskAboutIreland.
Valuers' Notebooks, Cancelled/Revision books and Current Land Books: Only the Revision Books for Northern Ireland counties are available online. Some of the Valuers/Surveyors' Notebooks are held on the National Archives of Ireland's NAI-Genealogy portal, free, and (the same) collection is searchable on FindMyPast.
Some 301 volumes, published 1847 to 1864, make up the complete Griffith's Primary Valuation of Tenements. No single repository holds the entire original collection.
However, in various states of incompleteness (or even just per county) it may be available on microfiche or photocopy in local and regional libraries across Ireland and at the major institutions in Dublin (the National Library, National Archives and the Valuation Office) and in Belfast (the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland).
The original maps are held by the National Archives of Ireland in Dublin. Scanned images are available at the Valuation Office in Dublin.
Valuers' Notebooks, Cancelled/Revision books and Current Land Books: These are pre- and post-publication manuscript books.
They are not a researcher's first port of call, but can be extremely useful for further research after studying the Primary Valuation of Tenements. See link in the Where Next? section below.