Introduction: In this article – to help celebrate today being St. Patrick’s Day – Gena Philibert-Ortega writes about Griffith’s Valuation, a valuable tool for researching your Irish ancestors. Gena is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.”
Have Irish ancestors? One of the must-have genealogical sources for finding your 19th century ancestor in Ireland is Griffith’s Valuation. Have you used this important resource? If the answer is no, you’ll want to start searching it. Best of all, you can search it for free!
What is Griffith’s Valuation?
Griffith’s Valuation is named for Sir Richard Griffith (1784-1878), who studied civil engineering and mining in school, and was appointed to various positions – including Professor of Geology and Mining at the Royal Dublin Society in 1812. In 1824 he was appointed Boundary Commissioner, which led to his Valuation.
According to the “Ask about Ireland” website, Griffith:
“…oversaw the precise fixing of townland boundaries, laying out in exact lines the edges of areas that had long been fluid or traditional, and omitting many older place names in the process… exact boundaries were a prerequisite to the detailed mapping of Ireland to be carried out by the Ordnance Survey, which was itself a necessary preliminary to any accurate valuation. The connections between naming, mapping and valuing were clear to the government of the day, and were made explicit when Griffith was appointed Commissioner for the General Survey and Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland in 1827, following the Valuation Act of 1826, an Act which he was involved in drafting. He held this position for the following 41 years, until 1868.” (1)
The FamilySearch Wiki reports:
“Between 1848 and 1864, a valuation, called Griffith’s Primary Valuation, was made of taxable property in every parish in Ireland. The valuation records list the name of the head of the household, the name of the landowner (‘immediate lessor’), the acreage of the plot, the value of the property, and the amount of tax assessed. The tax based on the property valuation was used to support the poor.” (2)
Griffith’s Valuation is obviously an important record set for finding an ancestor in Ireland. But like other tax lists, it’s not an every-name census. And while over time it may include various family members on one property, as the head of household dies and the son or wife takes over, it does not include everyone in the family.
Knowing that Griffith’s Valuation is not a census and not a documentation of every person in Ireland, why should a genealogist use it? According to the “Ask about Ireland” website:
“The Primary Valuation was the first full-scale valuation of property in Ireland. It was overseen by Richard Griffith and published between 1847 and 1864. It is one of the most important surviving 19th century genealogical sources.” (3)
In addition, according to Terri O’Connell, genealogist with the Irish American Heritage Center in Chicago, there are three reasons Griffith’s Valuation is a must:
- If an ancestor is named you can see where they lived, if the map is properly marked. You can also see what the land looks like today by viewing the corresponding map.
- You can learn how much the family paid annually to live there and who the lessor of the property was. This is especially important during the famine years, in case the family disappears from later Irish records. The property records of the lessor could show if there was assisted emigration by the lessor.
- You can document the ancestor’s FAN club (Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) especially noting who their neighbors were.
In addition, as a census substitute, Griffith’s is important especially since nearly all of Ireland’s 19th century census records have been destroyed.
Accessing Griffith’s Valuation Online
Ready to search for your Irish ancestor? You can search Griffith’s Valuation on the “Ask about Ireland” website. The best part about using this website is that it’s free!
On this website, you can search by family name or a given name and a surname. You can then add a location, but this is optional. If you are searching a common name, you may want to add a place to narrow your results. “Much of this information can be obtained from their corresponding entry in the 1901 or 1911 census… and cross-referenced on websites that help identity the locations of place names.” (4)
Your search results will include indexed information, a digitized page from the Valuation, and the ability to view a modern and historical map. In addition, you can upload and share information you have for that ancestor or place.
“Ask about Ireland” also gives you the option to conduct a Place search, thus viewing all the applicable names for that place.
Understanding the names for the place your ancestor lived is important. “Ask about Ireland” allows you to indicate a Place name, County, Barony, Union, and Parish. What are these?
“Ireland has 4 Ancient Provinces and 32 counties, 6 belong to Northern Ireland and 26 to the Republic of Ireland. The counties then break down into Baronies, Parishes (ecclesiastical and civil), the diocese, cities or towns, townlands, Poor law unions, registrars district and electoral district.” (5)
You can learn more about these division in the blog post 8 Days of Irish Research: Defining the Land from “Finding Our Ancestors.” You can learn more about records for Irish genealogy from the FamilySearch Research Wiki.
Become an expert on Griffith’s Valuation by consulting the articles available from the “Ask about Ireland” website.
(1) “Sir Richard Griffith,” Ask about Ireland (http://www.askaboutireland.ie/reading-room/history-heritage/irish-genealogy/what-is-griffiths-valuati/sir-richard-griffith/index.xml: accessed 10 March 2020).
(2) “Ireland Taxation,” FamilySearch Research Wiki (https://www.familysearch.org/wiki/en/Ireland_Taxation#Griffith.27s_Primary_Valuation: accessed 10 March 2020).
(3) “Griffith’s Valuation,” Ask about Ireland (http://www.askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valuation/index.xml?action=nameSearch: accessed 10 March 2020).
(4) Gleeson, Dr. Maurice, “Land, Streets, Schools & Workhouses,” Tracing Your Ancestors: Irish Research, A Practical Guide (Ontario, Canada: Moorshead Publishing, 2018).
(5) “8 Days of Irish Research. Defining the Land,” Finding our Ancestors (http://findingourancestors.com/8-days-of-irish-research-defining-the-land/: accessed 10 March 2020).