Category Archives: Griffith’s Primary Valuation of Ireland

Research Help: Where Do Your Family Come From in Ireland?

People ask me all the time where in Ireland their surname may be found.  A lot of these people, their ancestor/s left Ireland pre the ‘main’ famine time so they never think to look in records that we have which are for a time later than that famine period, and they should, they should particularly look at the distribution in the Griffiths Primary Valuation as per the examples I give below.

The thing is though, we have very few records which are pre 1840 BUT we do have a land survey taken in the 1840-60 time frame and while this record did NOT include a lot of people genealogists use it as a ‘surname locator’.  As a surname locator it is not perfect, but, it helps us work out places that we could be searching in for people of our surname.

It is reasonably easy to work with when you are looking for locations of a surname which is relatively uncommon in a county, even in the whole country but not much use if you are looking for an ‘O’Brien’ from somewhere in Ireland e.g. on looking for the surname O’Brien in all of Ireland I get a result of 10589 entries.  On looking for O’Brien in County Cork, I get a result of 1210 entries.  O’Brien in County Kilkenny gives me 32 entries (I am actually finding that figure unbelieveable!!).  Having given you these figures you can see the difference between O’Brien in a county and the surnames I am working with below.

Genealogists use the Griffiths Primary Valuation to source out areas in a county that a surname was found and from that they then decide which parish records they can check out.

I’m dealing specifically with Roman Catholic records here, for other religions we do not have as many parish records. I’m giving you two examples.  The first for a reasonably uncommon surname in one county (while over all of Ireland it is actually a common surname).  The second example is for a surname which is common in the county I have chosen. The first surname is ‘McNamara ‘ and the county is Roscommon.  I’m working that surname for a friend of mine who I told I would try to help her with her McNamara search a long time ago.  The second surname is Lyons and the county is Galway.  Galway is where my Lyons family came from (in the short term – we come from farther down the country at an earlier time)

Example 1 : McNamara, Roscommon

Griffiths Primary Valuation Search Page

I filled in only two boxes.
Family Name : McNamara
County: Roscommon

I left all other boxes empty and clicked search.
The result was 50 entries.

50 entries does not necessarily mean 50 different people. Some of these entries may have been for the same person leasing land with a house on it and leasing land with no house. Some of the entries may have been for a person who was leasing out the land to someone else. The names of the parishes which are given are civil parishes, *not* religious parishes.  The names of Roman Catholic parishes are different in a lot of instances to the names of the civil parishes.  So, you don’t look at the names of the people who were given, you look at the names of the parishes and we’ll say here that the McNamara family we are looking for were Catholic.  We need to look at the names of the civil parishes and then see first of all if there are Catholic parishes of the same name and it is with these that we begin our real search.

As you look down this list you will see the differences in spellings between the name of the civil parish and the name of the Roman Catholic parish.  You will see question marks showing those civil parishes I could not match up with a particular Roman Catholic parish.  Eventually it may turn out that I have to look at the locations of these civil parishes and see if I can match them with RC parishes in that area.  That’s a different days work after I have finished searching the parishes for which I have RC parish names.

Civil Parishes listed  vs Roman Catholic parish of same name

St. Peter : St. Peter’s & Drum (Athlone)
Kiltoom  : Kiltoom (Ballybay)
Fuerty  : Athleague & Fuerty
Termonbarry : Tarmonbarry
Kilgefin : ??? Kilkeevan (Castlerea)
Roscommon :: Roscommon & Kilteevan
Gran  :: ????
Drumatemple :: ?????
Ardcarn :: Ardcarne & Tumna (Cootehall)
Kilronan :: Kilronan (Arigna)
Killukin :: Killukin & Killumod (Croghan)
Ballintobber :: Ballintober & Ballymoe
Moore :: Moore
Estersnow :: ????
Clooncraff :: ????

Nancy had a John McNamara.  There were men called John listed in Killukin, Roscommon, Kilgefin, and Termonbarry, so that leaves us with four main parishes to begin searching in, I’m very glad that Nancy thinks that her McNamara family came from Roscommon and not just ‘somewhere’ in Ireland.  McNamara is a common enough surname and there were nearly 4000 entries in the Griffiths for that surname in all of Ireland

 Example 2: The surname Lyons in Galway county.(Galway city is not included in this search)

Griffiths Primary Valuation Search Page

I filled in only two boxes.
Family Name : Lyons
County: Galway (the City of Galway is not included in this search)

I left all other boxes empty and clicked search.
The result 247 entries.

You can immediately see the difference between the number of entries for McNamara in Roscommon  (50) and Lyons in Galway county (247).  A lot more work involved in sorting out the number of Roman Catholic parishes to be checked.  Note here though, Galway is a much bigger county than Roscommon having over 80 Roman Catholic parishes compared to 33 in Roscommon. So, entries for the surname Lyons in Galway are in the civil parishes of (and I have the name of the Roman Catholic parish listed beside the name of the civil parish below).

I have made one mistake when creating this table, I forgot to tell the table to show 100 entries so when you look at it it will show you only 10 entries.  Please click on the number you can see above the table and increase the number 10 to 100 if you want to see all the entries on the one page.

Civil Parish:Roman Catholic Parish
Abbeygormacan:Abbeygormican & Killoran
Addergoole:Addergoole & Kisleevy
Aughrim:Aughrim & Kilconnell
Ballymacward:Ballymacaward & Cloonkeenerril
Ballynakill:??Duniry & Ballynakill listed below
Clonkeen:???Cloonkeenerril above??
Duniry:Duniry & Ballinakill
Fohanagh:Fohenagh & Kilgerill
Kilconla:???Donaghpatrick & Kilcloona
Kilconnell:???Kilconly & Kilbannon??
Kilcummin:Oughterard (Kilcummin)
Kilgerrill:Fohenagh & Kilgerill
Kilkerrin:Kilkerrin & Clonberne
Killanin:Killanin (see also Oughterard)
Killeroran:???Killian & Cilleroran??
Killian:Killian & Cilleroran
Killimordaly:Killimordaly (Kiltullagh)
Killoran:???Killian & Cilleroran??
Kilthomas:Peterswell (Kilthomas)
Kiltullagh:Killimordaly (Kiltullagh)
Moylough:Mounbellew (Moylough)
Oranmore:Oranmore (Kilcameen & Ballynacourty)

Griffith’s Primary Valuation Records: Search

From the 1820s to the 1840s a complex process of reform attempted to standardise the basis of local taxation in Ireland. The first steps were to map and fix administrative boundaries through the Ordnance Survey and the associated Boundary Commission. The next step was to assess the productive capacity of all property in the country in a thoroughly uniform way. Richard Griffith, a geologist based in Dublin, became Boundary Commissioner in 1825 and Commissioner of Valuation in 1827. The results of his great survey, the Primary Valuation of Ireland, were published between 1847 and 1864. The valuation is arranged by county, barony, Poor Law Union, civil parish and townland, and it lists every landholder and every householder in Ireland.

Griffith’s Primary Valuation of Ireland: Terms Used

Written by Thomas Osborne Davis (1814-1845).

Mr. Griffith’s instructions were clear and full, and we strongly recommend the study of them, and an adherence to their forms and classifications, to valuators of all private and public properties, so far as they go.

He appointed two classes of valuators – Ordinary Valuators to make the first valuation all over each county, and Cheek Valuators to re-value patches in every district, to test the accuracy of the ordinary valuators.

The ordinary valuator was to have two copies of the Townland (or 6-inch) Survey. Taking a sheet with him into the district represented on it, he was to examine the quality of the soil in lots of from fifty to thirty acres, or still smaller bits, to mark the bounds of each lot on the survey map, and to enter in his field book the value thereof, with all the special circumstances specially stated. The examination was to include digging to ascertain the depth of the soil and the nature of the subsoil. All land was to be valued at its agricultural worth, supposing it liberally set, leaving out the value of timber, turf, etc. Reductions were to be made for elevation above the sea, steepness, exposure to bad winds, patchiness of soil, bad fences, and bad roads. Additions were to be made for neighbourhood of limestone, turf, sea, or other manure, roads, good climate and shelter, nearness to towns.

The following classification of soils was recommended :-

“Arrangement of Soils”

All soils may be arranged under four heads, each representing the characteristic ingredients, as:
1. Argillaceous, or clayey

2. Silicious, or sandy

3. Calcareous, or limy

4. Peaty.

For practical purposes it will be desirable to subdivide each of these classes –
Thus argillaceous soils may be divided into three varieties, viz.:Clay, clay loam, and argillaceous alluvial.
Of silicious soils there are four varieties, viz: Sandy, gravelly, slaty, and rocky.
Of calcareous soils we have three varieties, viz.: Limestone, limestone gravel, and marl.
Of peat soils two varieties, viz.: Moor, and peat, or bog.

In describing in the field book the different qualities of soils, the following explanatory words may be used as occasion may require.-
Stiff -Where a soil contains a large proportion, say one-half, or even more, of tenacious clay, it is called stiff. In dry weather this kind of soil cracks and opens, and has a tendency to form into large and hard lumps, particularly if ploughed in wet weather.
Friable -Where the soil is loose and open, as is generally the case in sandy, gravelly, and moory lands.
Strong -Where a soil contains a considerable portion of clay, and has some tendency to form into clods or lumps, it may be called strong.
Deep -Where the soil exceeds ten inches in depth, the term deep may be applied.
Shallow.-Where the depth of the soil is less than eight inches.
Dry -Where the soil is friable, and the subsoil porous (if there be no springs), the term dry should be used.
Wet -Where the soil, or subsoil, is very tenacious, or where springs are numerous.
Sharp.-Where there is a moderate proportion of gravel, or small stones.
Fine or Soft -Where the soil contains no gravel, but is chiefly composed of very fine sand, or soft, light earth without gravel.
Cold -Where the soil rests on a tenacious clay subsoil, and has a tendency when in pasture to produce rushes and other aquatic plants.
Sandy or gravelly -Where there is a large proportion of sand or gravel through the soil.
Slaty.-Where the slaty substratum is much inter- mixed with the soil.
Worn.-Where the soil has been a long time under cultivation, without rest or manure.
Poor -Where the land is naturally of bad quality.
Hungry.-Where the soil contains a considerable portion of gravel, or coarse sand, resting on a gravelly subsoil; on such land manure does not produce the usual effect.

The colours of soils may also be introduced, as brown, yellow, blue, grey, red, black, etc.

Also, where applicable, the words steep, level, shrubby, rocky, exposed, etc., may be used.

Lists of market prices were sent with the field books, and the amounts then reduced to a uniform rate, which Mr. Griffith fixed at 2s. 6d. per pound over the prices of produce mentioned in the Act.

Griffith’s Primary Valuation of Ireland: Introduction

This was a survey of property occupiers in Ireland made between 1848 and 1864 and it’s importance lies in the fact that it lists almost every head of household for each county.

Explanation of the Griffiths Primary Valuation
This valuation records every landowner and householder in Ireland in a period shortly after the famine.

An Act was passed in 1826 that allowed for a uniform valuation of property in all Ireland in order to levy the county cess charges and grand Jury Rates. Thus began an assessment of the whole country, county by county by Sir Richard Griffith.

Amendments were passed to the 1826 Act, the first in 1831 excluded those houses under the annual valuation of £3, another in 1836 excluded houses under £5

The information given in the Griffiths is the following:
The townland address and householders name; the name of the person from whom the property is leased; a description of the property; the acreage and the valuation.

If a surname was common in an area then the surveyors adopted the practise of indicating the fathers name to show the difference between two people of the same Christian name and surname (usually).

So Tadgh O’Brien (Michael) is the son of Michael O’Brien and Tadgh O’Brien (James) is the son of James O’Brien. However, here in Ireland people of the same name could/can be distinguished simply by indicating the colour of their hair (as gaeilge – thru Irish ) so it would have been sufficient in those instances to indicate that one Tadgh had red hair and one Tadgh black – calling them respectively Tadgh (Red) O’Brien and Tadgh (Black) O’Brien

To confuse those who come in search of ancestors has always been the ambition of the very Ancestors!!

The main difference between the Tithe Applotment Books and the Griffiths Valuation is that all householders were listed in Griffiths.

Remember the different types of acres used in each, the Irish and English acre is different, this will account for differnce in size of land held by a family from one valuation to the other if they appear in both. Remember also the fact that the house of less than £3 annual value were included up to the year 1831 and excluded from that point forward, and those with an annual value of £5 were included up to 1836 and excluded from then on.

Many refer to the Griffiths CD, which is handy enough to track a surname through the country, or to find some places in counties where the name occurs. However, this Cd is simply an index of names, with townland names for the county.It is not possible to guess whether the six John O’Leary’s listed for one county are one and the same or if all the land is held by John O’Leary and rented out to others. One problem I personally have noted with the griffiths CD is that while it is supposed to have been transcribed from the originals – the place names are not as they should be in many instances. There are placenames in there which while I know them from the originals – are not the same as actually written in the Griffiths valuation books.

This I assume is because these were written up by people with little or no knowledge of Irish geography or Irish phonetics. So that while they transcribed what they thought they saw, because of faded ink or poor script – the actual name might be quite different. If the transcriber had knowledge of either Irish phonetics or the geography of the area they would, perhaps, have written a different word as the place name. This is not a huge error to anyone who does know the geography of the area they are enquiring about, but for anyone who hasn’t got a clue it’s a different story.

There is an index to the surnames listed in Griffiths Valuation, that known as the ‘Householder’s Index’ This is made up by county, divided into baronies, parishes, townlands and has been filmed by the Latter Day Saints.

Some counties have a number of volumes covering the whole county.e.g. Co. Cork has three. Each index is divided into two sections, the first being an alphabetical list of surnames that occur in each Barony. The second section is an alphabetical list of surnames occurring in each parish within that barony. If you just look through the first section of the book, then you can see which baronies the surname was found in and then you can check the parishes in those baronies.

The index to the surnames tells you how many times a surname occurred in a particular parish in the Griffiths Valuation by listing a G and then if it occurred more than once in that parish there will be a figure after that letter. if the surname was present during the time of the Tithes, then there will be a T on the same line. It does not give any indication of how many times the surname occurred in that parish during the tithes.

Once you know that the surname occurred in any parish, then you have to look at the Griffiths Valuation film for that area and there you will find more information. On the films, if you find more than one person of the same name in any parish, you can guess as to whether it was or was not the same person in some instances. If the person is listed more than once leasing land without a building on it, and the name occurs once with a building, then it is to be assumed that this was the same person.

The Householders Index with their LDS-FHC film numbers:

Antrim Armagh, Carlow, Cavan LDS film # 0919001
Clare, Cork, Londonderry LDS film # 0919002
Donegal, Down Dublin LDS Film # 0919003
Fermanagh, Galway Kerry, Kildare, Kilkeny LDS film # 0919004
Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath LDS film # 0919005
Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary LDS film # 09119006
Tyrone, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford, Wicklow LDS film # 0919007

Valuation Office Records
The Valuation office was set up to carry out the original Primary Valuation. It is still in existance and has in its possession the original set of notebooks used by the Griffiths Valuation surveyors These are the field books, the house books and the tenure books. All 3 have maps which indicate the holding they refer to.

Field Books: Information on the size & quality of a holding House Books: Occupiers name and measurement of any buildings Tenure Books: Annual rent paid and legal basis – whether by lease or at
will, also the year of any lease.

These notebooks also document any changes in occupation between the initial survey and the final published survey.

The valuation office also holds the ‘Cancelled’ or ‘Revision’ Land Books and Current Land Books.

The Cancelled land books are similar to those of the published valuation but observations made are handrwritten in on these. The observations can show whether the size or physical structure of the holding were altered, also the changes in the name of the landlord or occupier..this can show death or emigration for a particular year. Changes may have been noted up to a few years after the actual change. It is best to go to the original earlier years and work your way forward with these because the actual numbers of lots can have changed over the years because of lots being broken up or joined together.

The Land Commission was created by the 1881 Land Act. Initially it was created to determine fair rents but its main purpose became to assist tenants to purchase their property. A Congested Districts Board was set up in 1891 and this had a similar function, but it was abolished by the Irish Government. in 1923 and its power transfered to the Land Commission.

So, in the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th century people who occupied land were able to buy that land. You will see an entry in the cancelled books showing ‘In Fee’ meaning that the occupier was now the owner. Also, on these you may see LAP: Land Act Purchase stamped on an entry, meaning that the occupier had been assisted in by the Lands Commission to purchase the land.

The cancelled books for the 26 counties are held in Dublin in the Valuation Office while those for the 6 counties of Northern Ireland (Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry (Derry and Tyrone) are held in the PRONI in Belfast.

Those in Dublin are bound together by year in large volumes, the oldest being at the back (oldest = Griffiths)

Those in Belfast are not bound and have to be asked for separately and are only available up to the 1930’s.

The related maps are also held in the Valuation Office. These are Ordnance Survey Sheets onto which the property boundaries were drawn. Changes in holdings are also indicated on the maps.