How to fill in some gaps in missing Irish census records
Census records are the principal source of genealogical data in modern times. Unfortunately in Ireland almost all census records before 1901 were destroyed at various times, some because of government policy, some as a result of the destruction of the Irish Public Records Office by renegades during the Irish Civil War in 1922. In this way extensive census records dating from 1766 to 1891 were lost, leaving the 1901 census as our earliest complete record.
So what to do? There are a number of land and property record sets which contain incidental genealogical material, and these can be used to fill in some of the gaps caused by census loss. There are four main sets, the Tithe Applotment Books (about which I have already blogged about, see under March 26, 2014 below), Griffith’s Valuation, the Valuation Office House and Tenure Books, and the Valuation Office Cancelled Books. I will return to some of the above at a later stage: today I want to talk about Griffith’s Valuation.
Griffith’s Valuation was a land and property valuation designed to establish an equitable tax on property, both buildings and land, for government taxation purposes. It is called after Sir Richard Griffith, an extraordinary individual who oversaw the entire operation. I’m not so much interested in the history of the survey however as in its genealogical uses, so if you want to find out more about Griffith, Wikipedia for instance has lots. The Valuation was published by barony progressively in different parts of the country as it was finished, the earliest being in 1847 and the final books being published in 1864. Most local libraries have hard copies of the survey and it is also available on a number of online sources. The most important of these is the www.askaboutireland.ie website which is free to use and has good search tools by which you can search either by location or family name. The survey is also available on the paysite www.findmypast.ie . The genealogical information provided on Griffith’s may be summarized as follows.
- Name of head of household or holder of property (unless a multi-family or brownstone tenement where ‘lodgers’ will appear).
- Name of immediate lessor or person from whom the property is held.
- Map reference for the holding.
- Acreage for the land.
- Total cash valuation of property.
- Valuation of homestead.
Therefore, to take a typical entry, we might learn that John Murphy holds a house and land amounting to 24 acres 2 roods and 6 perches of Sir John Jephson on plot 6a in the townland of Ballymacsliney and civil parish of Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork, in 1852. The cash valuation will include one on Murphy’s house, in this case £1, which suggests that Murphy held a three or four room cottage in good repair with a slate roof. If the correct map is sourced (see below) one can then identify plot 6a, where plot 6 will give the precise area of the farm and the letter ‘a’ the exact location of the homestead. The house valuation is of particular importance, with five shillings often representing approximately one room, so a 5 shilling house would be a one room cottage, a ten shilling valuation representing two to three roomed cottage, and so on. Sometimes the published books are properly typeset and at other times are printed versions of a style of copperplate handwriting.
The original Griffith’s maps show the survey plots at the time of the publication of the first books, both farms and homes. This is of particular relevance to those interested in locating an ancestral homeland site. These maps can be difficult to access however for various reasons. The askaboutireland website, for instance, reproduces high quality versions of Griffith’s maps, but often these are not the earliest maps but are rather later versions, sometimes by twenty or thirty years, and so do not represent the situation as it was initially. By the same token the findmypast pay website reproduces maps that look closer to the original maps in format, but again are often not the first edition and sometimes have no plots shown at all.
The only way to be sure you are getting the original first edition Griffith’s maps is to visit the Valuation Office in Dublin to access the original maps, where there are colour photocopying facilities. Such a visit can be linked with an examination of the cancelled books where the descent of the holdings in Griffith’s can be traced down to the 1980s. You should have full Griffith’s details to hand when visiting the Valuation Office in order to expedite your search.