IRELAND: Griffith’s Valuation Records Explained

Notes from an article by William Al Smyth, a student who prepared a PHD thesis on Griffith’s Valuation at the National University of Ireland..

“Richard Griffith (1784-1787). His General Valuaton of Rateable Property in Ireland lists the name of each and every occupier of property, together with their immediate landlord, the areage held and rateable value of this property.  Griffith’s Valuation as it is commonly known, was published between 1847 and 1865 in more than two hundred volumes, containing in excess of one million entries, arranged systematically by townland, parish, and poor law union.

Each entry is cross-referenced in a large scale map, which outlines the boundaries of each property and identifies the exact site of all buildings. The National Library of Ireland holds the complete set. All county libraries in Ireland carry the volumes relevant to their local area”  The Ordinance Survey maps are now available for sale in genealogy bookstores.

The initiation of this project arose in regard to taxation of Ireland’s people, especially tithe-rent charges and clerical dues.  Richard Griffiths, an engineer, was appointed to determine the extent of boundaries and physical elements.  By 1830 Ireland had 60,444 townlands and 2,445 parishes, not a manageable situation for future taxation purposes. Griffith did endeavor to preserve the authenticity of recorded names already in use. Names submitted by a landlord of large estates was accepted without question. Initially occupiers of all houses, irrespective of size were recorded. However, due to rising costs in the project, Griffith’s surveyors began to only record occupiers of substantial homes. Fortunately many parishes in the north of the country had been surveyed before the changes were initiated in 1838.

In 1844, Richard Griffiths was again hired for new taxation purposes to survey territory based on the annual rent paid.  Griffith’s field operators recorded the names of every occupier of property for the districts surveyed. They also had to log the rent paid, the type of lease held and the name of the head landlord, which often differed from the immediate lessor.  Sometimes there was a time lap of up to three years between the initial visit by the surveyor and the publication of the final tally of household members.   Immigration and death caused an upheaval to the occupancy of property during this period.  Griffith was obligated to revisit three times Munster and South Leinster counties, for example before he could produce a stable list of occupiers. Many of the buildings had been burned or torn down during this upheaval, which Griffiths marked in over his previous records by the word, “down”  More than 9,000 of these manuscript notebooks survive.

Using these latter field books has some drawbacks compared to the printed volumes of Griffith’s earlier Valuation. The field workers did not date their work, using a colour coding system instead for time of visit. The handwriting is very hard to decipher, and so many changes were added to the original records.

Eventually Griffith completed his task he began 20 years earlier. For the genealogist, these lists of occupiers of property are still very valuable. .