Valuation Office rate books

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A Valuation Office cancelled rate book

Valuation Office cancelled rate books

Most genealogists with an interest in Ireland are familiar with Griffith’s Valuation. (see my earlier blog on this subject). It is a list of householders and the rates or taxes computed to be owed from their household and any land held by them. This was the first general tax and was established to provide relief for those in poverty. It was established in various parts of Ireland over the time period 1848 to 1864. What researchers sometimes fail to grasp is that this system, once established, continued in operation until abolished in 1977. Therefore, there is a record of property possession by householder (not all householders but a large majority) for most of Ireland for around 120 years or so.

Ideally, once a year an employee of the Valuation Office, a qualified valuer, would visit each property and household and record any changes occurring since the last visit that would affect the rateable valuation. This would then be recorded in the rate book and if relevant inserted into the current map. Each rate book was originally described as the Current Land Book, but as this would become full it was cancelled. The information was organized originally using the Irish system of landscape organization, in ascending order, townland, civil parish, barony, and county. I will discuss these further below. Although originally designed as a taxation system the Valuation system can be used profitably as a census substitute by genealogists.

The most important aspect of the Valuation is the recording of householder names, similar to the ‘head of the household’ concept in the census records. These records are basically the same as the first published Griffith’s, containing:

  • Map reference (property or farms are numbered, homesteads shown in lower case lettering, in urban areas street numbers)
  • Name of occupiers
  • Immediate lessors (the immediate landlord)
  • Description of the tenement (house, land, outbuildings, non-residential properties such as schools, churches etc.)
  • Area in acres, roods and perches
  • Details of the annual valuation
  • Observations (notes changes of occupancy giving the date)

The cancelled books come with cancelled maps as well, using the same system as the published Griffiths.

The main genealogical value of these records is the name of the occupier. Where the name of the new occupier is the same as that of the old occupier this is generally not noted, so for example one could have ‘Patrick Murphy’ holding a property for one hundred years or more, when what is really happening is father, son and grandson, all with the same name, all succeed to the same property.

The immediate lessor shows the next stage in tenure from the bottom upwards. There could be four or five higher levels of leaseholder above not recorded before one gets to the real owner.

The acres used are statute acres.

The observations usually record the year of any changes of tenancy colour coded. Therefore, when ‘William Regan’ dies or passes the property to another his name is crossed out and the name of the new tenant inserted above in a different coloured ink. This same ink is then used in the ‘observations’ column to record the year of the change. Entries thus occur in several coloured inks.

The stamp LAP stands for Land Act Purchase where the various land acts have enabled the tenant to purchase outright the property from the various landlords, usually around the early 1900s. ‘In fee’ means that the possessor is also the owner.

Unfortunately these Valuation Office records are not yet available online, although this is the intention over time. Most of the records are already digitised but to access these, whether in digital format or hardcopy, requires a visit to the Valuation Office in Dublin. The records for Northern Ireland are partly digitised online, in range from the first publication date to 1933. (On the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland website).

In order to access the required records one should know the detailed address of the homestead or farm one is researching. This needs to be in the format mentioned above, at least for rural areas. Towns and cities on the other hand are fairly straightforward, all one needs is the street name and house number.

The townland is the basic unit of location, with medieval origins. Townlands can range in size from a few acres to several thousand acres, but the average size is around three hundred acres. There around sixty thousand townlands in Ireland.

Townlands are grouped into civil parishes, usually several thousand acres in extent. The civil parish is basically the Church of Ireland (Anglican/Episcopalian) parish as it existed at the time of the first Ordnance Survey national mapping as made in the 1830s and 1840s. These in turn descend from the older late-medieval Catholic parish system. The civil parish should not be confused with the modern Catholic parish system, of eighteenth century origins and often with different borders to the civil parish.

Civil parishes are grouped into baronies. The barony structure of today was altered somewhat by a re-organization of the 1830s, but the underlying shape is largely that of the local lordships of sixteenth-century Ireland. It is important to note that these are administrative baronies and not lordship baronies, although based on the latter. Manorial lordships were abolished in 1924 even though a market still exists in what are fictitious titles, usually sold to gullible Americans by down at heal English aristocrats. Correctly speaking, one cannot sell or buy an administrative barony, these are simply a local government areal unit. Ireland is divided into over three hundred administrative baronies.

The administrative barony is in turn grouped into thirty two counties. The county is yet another administrative unit, but to which there is usually fierce emotional attachment by its inhabitants. Counties again have mostly medieval origins although a few, such as Wicklow, are of early-modern provenance.

Useful websites for locating places in Ireland are and