If you have Irish ancestors, you probably know that all of Ireland’s census records from 1821 to 1891 were destroyed. I have spent many hours whining about my “unlucky” fate of being fifty percent Irish. Although nothing is going to bring back those lost 19th century Irish census records, land valuation records can be a substitution.
The land valuation records are records that were used to determine the amount of tax due on land and structures. The majority of land in Ireland during the 19th century was owned by a small number of individuals. Most Irish were tenant farmers. But most of the valuation records list the owner and the head of the household (tenant, in many cases) occupying the land, making these records an invaluable source for Irish research.
The valuation records cover three time periods, Tithe Applotments 1824-1840; Grifitth’s Primary Valuation 1848-1864; and Revision Lists 1864-present. They are arranged by county, civil parish and townland.
Tithe Applotments 1824-1840 (sometimes called Composition Books). The Tithe Applotment records were the result of an 1823 Act and were the first Irish taxes that had to be paid in money instead of goods. They are not comprehensive because they only list the landholders name and ignore the tenant farmers. Other information included is the land description and the amount of tithe payable. Although not as useful as Griffith’s Valuation and the Revision Lists, they should still be investigated.
Griffith’s Primary Valuation of Ireland 1848-1864 (Griffith’s Valuation). Griffith’s Valuation was an attempt to produce an equitable valuation of land and property throughout Ireland. This was done in two steps. The first step was to map and set boundaries resulting in the Ordnance Survey maps. The second was the assessment of property resulting in the valuation records. These two sets of records go hand and hand.
Information included in Griffith’s Valuation is the head of householder’s name, residence (county, parish, and townland), landlord, acreage, value of land and buildings, and a reference to the Ordnance Survey Maps. More than one valuation may have been done in a townland. For example, my great-grandfather, Denis Garbally, was listed for the years 1849 and 1851 in Saggart, County Dublin.
The valuation for every county survives today and they are very accessible. The valuations were published in book form and several indexes are available. An index by county was done in the 1960's by the National Library of Ireland but it is rarely used today. An index to Griffith’s Valuation is available on CD, and through the paid subscription Web site Irish Origins (www.irishorigins.com) and the free site Griffiths Valuation 1848-1864 (www.failteromhat.com/griffiths.php). These electronic indexes are country wide making them a much better tool than the previous index.
Revision Lists 1864-present. The revision lists are updates of Griffith’s Valuation. They consist of two sets of records: cancelled land books and current land books. These books record details of the changes from the time of Griffith’s Valuation up to the present. The Revision Lists can be used as clues to events such as relocation and head of the householder’s death. I have narrowed down Denis Garbally’s death to a two year period through the Revision Lists.
Researching in the Irish valuation records should begin with Griffith’s Valuation. The location description from Griffith’s Valuation will help to locate the records in the Tithe Applotments and the Revision Lists. The location information, specifically the townland, will also assist in locating other records richer in genealogical data such as church records, civil registrations, cemetery records, and newspaper.
Most of the valuation records up to the 1950's can be found in books or on microfilm at the Family History Library (FHL). To find the references in the FHL catalog, search on the townland name.
Although the information in the valuation records is not as extensive as census records, they could be the key to uncovering your Irish ancestors.