The lack of census records for the 19th century has us grasping at any record that might tell us about our ancestors. Although frequently referred to as a “census substitute,” Griffith’s Valuation, done between 1846 and 1864, is a tax list, not a census. The name of the occupier is the person responsible for paying the tax on the tenement (land and buildings). It is, however, the only major surviving list of where people lived just prior to, during and just after the famine. Even if your ancestors emigrated before the Valuation, chances are that members of their family remained and are listed. Once identified, the history of the tenancy and/or ownership of the parcel can be traced, in some cases, to the 1970s.
Richard Griffith, a geologist, was named Boundary Surveyor in 1825 as the country was trying to establish standards for taxation. This required maps to be drawn, townland names to be standardized and valuations to be completed for the entire country. What we know as Griffith’s Valuation is actually the Second (1846) and Third (1856) Valuations. The Second Valuation was done by Barony, the Third by Poor Law Union. The earliest valuations were done in Dublin between 1847-1853 and the latest in Armagh between 1863-1864. Make sure you know the dates of the Valuation in the area where your ancestors lived.
If your ancestor emigrated before Griffith’s was taken in your county, look for family members, grandparents, parents or siblings who remained in Ireland. Look at all of the individuals with your surname in the area and see if you can find given names that have been passed down in your family. If everyone in your family was named Patrick, Bernard and James, the family with Lawrence and Peter is less likely to be yours. If a couple was married in Ireland, look at the areas where the surnames of both the bride and groom overlap. Our Irish ancestors were not very mobile and tended to live, marry and die in the same place over generations. Their spouse likely came from the same parish or an adjoining parish. A great tool is John Grenham’s IrishAncestors site. From the home page, type in the surname for which you are searching. The result will be a map of where in Ireland the name occurred during the time of Griffith’s Valuation.
Don’t forget to view the alternate spellings in the upper right. Remember, spelling doesn’t count! In the lower left of the screen you’ll see a place to type in a second surname. This should be the maiden name of the wife of a couple who married in Ireland (this doesn’t work if your ancestors met and married in the US). You will then have a list of only those parishes where both names occur. Hopefully at least one of the names is not a common one! Since I knew that my Daly family was from Mayo, the overlap was only three parishes. When I looked at the location of the parishes, they were all adjoining.
If you’ve been following along since January, you do have a research plan…right?
Who are you looking for?
If your ancestor was under 21, he wouldn’t be listed in Griffith’s because he wasn’t old enough to sign a lease. Search for his father. Also, if he is unmarried he was likely living with his parents. If the father is dead, the lease may be in the name of the mother or a sibling. If your ancestor left Ireland before Griffith’s was done…did he emigrate alone or with his family? If alone, look for his father in Griffith’s. If with his family, look for others of the same surname in the locality.
Where did they live?
Yes, to repeat, again and again…it’s all about the locality! The best information is the townland. This will help you separate families. Do you know at least the parish? Then look for all of the people with the surname in the parish. If you only know the county, try using the surname distribution at IrishAncestors shown above. If you don’t know the locality in Ireland, check out my Quick Reference Guide, Preparing for Success in Irish Records Research. This Guide focuses on resources to identify the place in Ireland.
When was Griffith’s done in the county where your ancestors lived?
Easy to check. Go to Griffith’s Valuation: Time and Scope. Was your ancestor still in Ireland or had he already emigrated?
There are multiple online indexes and images to Griffith’s Valuation. I’m going to start with AskAboutIreland which is free. If you don’t have a paid subscription to another site (FindMyPast or Ancestry), this site works well. If you have a subscription to FindMyPast, they have the most complete index). The search engine at AskAboutIreland is not as flexible and the images have a watermark on them, but that doesn’t bother me. If you’re not getting enough hits, check “Include Similar Names.” I recommend you use at least the county (unless you have a very unusual name) and also the parish. Here’s an anomaly…if you use the back arrow to change criteria, the parish list disappears. Change the county, then go back to your selected county and the parish list will reappear.
The results will include all instances of the name, whether it be occupier or immediate lessor. My ancestor ended up as the lone entry on the second page of results. The majority of the first page listed individuals whose immediate lessor was Bernard Daly (no relation from what I can figure out), with the last entries on page one as Thomas Daly, Michael Daly and James Daly.
From the results page you can look at the Details which provides additional information including the printing date.
Click on “Original Page” to view the full page and download it for your records. In the townland of Crumlin, John Daly appears with map reference 18. His Immediate Lessor (the person to whom he pays his rent) is Thomas D. Lambert and his Tenement includes land and a house on 13 acres and 17 perches. The final three columns are the assessed value for the land, buildings and the total. There is also a James Daly in Crumlin and a Michael Daly in Boleyboy. Not shown on this page, is a Thomas Daly in Levallyroe, another adjoining townland. There is a good possibility that all of these families are related.
Finally, the map view allows you to see exactly where your ancestor’s holding was located. John Daly was on number 18. Click on the map view and enlarge it to find the townland, then identify the property. The map may seem confusing, but once you’ve done it a few times, it becomes easier. Look for the name of the townlands in small caps on the map. The one below shows “Crumlin,” just below the arrow pointing to property 18, the location of John Daly. James Daly is on property 7, which is larger, but he shares the rent on this property with four other individuals (this is called a rundale).
The maps used at AskAboutIreland are not the original maps, but date to a later time period. There are sometimes discrepancies between the numbers on the Griffith lists and the maps. If you notice this, look at the maps at FindMyPast which are the original maps. One nice feature on AskAboutIreland is the addition of the slider in the upper right corner of the map. Moving the slider to the left will change the transparency of the map and place it over a current Google Map. Seeing the modern roads map help you find the original property on a visit to Ireland.
Griffith's Valuation is much more than a list of just names. Additional information can be found in my Quick Reference Guide, Land, Tax and Estate Records In Ireland.
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