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.