Tithes were an income tax on farming, usually about one tenth of the annual income. These were used for the upkeep of the Church of Ireland and were paid from the time of the Reformation. Before the Composition Act of 1823 it was possible to pay them in kind instead of money. From the time of the Composition Act they were supposed to be paid in cash, and Tithe surveys were carried out in each Parish to assess what the income for that parish would be. Two people were appointed by each parish to carry out this assessment.
Tax was not payable on all land, and there was even variation on the types of land from place to place.
From 1736 grazing land had an exemption – this was usually land held by landlords.
Certain crops were taxable, others weren’t. Potatoes could be taxable in one parish and not in the one next door.
Tithe books are not comprehensive, people who did not hold land are not listed and some types of land were passed over absolutely, towns and cities were usually not asssesed.
They are arranged by townland and usually give the acreage held by each farmer. However, note here that the measurement used was the plantation or ‘Irish acre’ which differs in size from the imperial or ‘English acre’ used in the Griffiths Valuation.
The information you get from the Tithe Books is simple: townland name; landholders name; area of land and tithes paid. Some will list the landlords name as well.
The original tithe books for the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland are held in the National Archives in Dublin. Those for the 6 counties of Northern Ireland were transferred to the PRONI in Belfast. Copies of these for the 6 counties (Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry (Derry) and Tyrone) remain in Dublin in the National Archives and National Library.
Both Catholics and Protestants objected to paying of Tithes.
In 1830 the Catholic Parishoners of Graiguenamanagh in Co. Kilkenny withheld their tithes. In 1832 their action was followed by those in most parts of south Leinster and Munster and violence erupted – The ‘Tithe War’.
Church of Ireland Ministers of the areas concerned ended up without this money in some part of another from 1831. It was necessary for them in order to claim from the Clergy Relief Fund to draw up a list of Parishoners who had defaulted on the Tithes.
499 Lists or Schedules of Defaulters were submitted in order to avail of the relief fund. 127 of these still survive. – Lists of Tithe Defaulters. They are not written up alphabetically, and it is necessary to go through each book for each county and for some there are a number of books. These books are held by the National Archives in Dublin.
53 of these books relate to Kilkenny; 30 to Tipperary; there is also some coverage of Laois, Carlow, Offaly, Meath, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Louth Waterford and Wexford.
Some of these Defaulter lists have been produced on CD.
Quaker records show lists of those who defaulted on Tithes also.
Tithe’s Available On From-Ireland.net
- Tithe Applotment Book, Barragh, Co. Carlow
- Tithe Applotment Book, Dunmoylan, Co. Limerick
- Tithe Applotment Book, Kilbradan, Co. Limerick
- Tithe Applotment Book, Killeely, Co. Limerick
- Tithe Applotment Book, Munchins, Co. Limerick
- Tithe Applotment Books, Co. Laois
- Tithe Applotment Books, Rathdowney, Co. Laois
- Tithe Applotment Books, Tallow Parish, Co. Waterford