Valuation Office House and Tenure books

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Valuation Office House, Field and Valuation Books (census substitutes)

House book example

The first forms of taxation to raise money for poverty relief in Ireland date to the early eighteenth century, but it was only with the establishment of what became known as ‘Griffith’s Valuation’ during the middle of the nineteenth century that a comprehensive national system was established. This system was the first nationwide property tax designed to alleviate poverty in Ireland. It had its roots in the Irish Poor Law Act of 1838. Land and buildings were ‘valued’ and then taxed at various rates. The money raised funded the workhouse system, the ancestor to the later public hospital system in Ireland. Boards of Poor Law Guardians were established locally to administer the system. The survival of such administrative records is haphazard. Some of my earlier blogs on census substitutes have dealt with aspects of the Valuation system, in this blog I want to focus on the Valuation Office House, Field and Tenure books, collections of notebooks used in establishing the valuation system. These record similar data as that found in Griffiths Valuation but with extra features of genealogical relevance. These documents generally date to between one and five years before the publication date of Griffiths Valuation. Unlike Griffith’s and the Cancelled Books, both dealt with in earlier blogs above, the House, Field and Tenure books are not a comprehensive source for the entire country as there are gaps and in some cases the surveys were limited in area for utilitarian reasons.

The House books record the dimensions of residences and outbuildings, length by breadth by height, and the condition of the buildings in terms of age, state of repair, nature of masonry, whether the roof thatched or slated, and so on. The terms used are ‘house’ and then ‘office’, the latter in relation to any outbuildings. While this is generally the case in some instances the actual function of the out-buildings are recorded, such as for example ‘stable’ or ‘piggery’. The name of the occupier is also recorded as is a lot number, in many cases but not always these lot numbers are the same as those in the published Griffiths. Where changes of occupancy have occurred during the period between the oldest workbook and publication these are recorded in the same way as is the case with the cancelled books, the old tenant’s name crossed out and the new one written above.

The Tenure books record the same information as the published Griffith’s Valuation but with two extra columns, one recording the annual rent and a second recording the tenure and year let. These are obviously of great interest to genealogists, especially the latter, which can range from tenants-at-will to leasehold tenants for leases of lives (a lease of three named people, the lease falling in upon the death of the last of the three to be alive) or for leases of fixed periods of time.

There are other types of books of less interest to genealogists for various reasons, such as field books and mill books. One to be aware of however is the Quarto books, which is basically a tenure book recording details of towns and cities. Again, the area of record survival is intermittent.

These House and Tenure books are available on the National Archives genealogy section and on