Locating Properties and Families within a Townland or Street

A variety of sources [Civil and Church Records, Wills, Census Records and Valuation Records] will provide addresses of ancestors in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. However, only two of these sources [Census Records and Valuation Records] will answer the question - How do we find the exact location of a house in the past?

The table below contains the specific documents and maps that need to be examined in order to find the exact location of a house or plot of land in a townland or street during the period c.1860 to 1957 and, apart from the 1901/1911 Census, they are all valuation records. If you are not already familiar with the Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation of c.1860 or the subsequent revisions, known as the Griffith's Revision Books, click on the Valuation Records link in the left-hand menu for more details.




Manuscript books available only in PRONI: VAL/2/B.
Printed books available in PRONI and local libraries. 
The pages from the printed books are now online [with accompanying maps] at askaboutireland.ie.

Griffith’s [Tenement] Valuation c.1860

VAL/2/A 6 inch maps for rural areas.
VAL/2/D large scale town maps.

Manuscript books available in PRONI: VAL/12/B. Now available online at PRONI.

Griffith’s Revision Books from c.1860 to c.1930

VAL/12/D 6 inch maps for rural areas.
VAL/12/E large scale town maps.

The 1901 Census and the 1911 Census are both online at the NAI website.

1901 & 1911 Census Returns 
[Form B1]


Manuscript books available only in PRONI: VAL/3/B.
First Northern Ireland General Revaluation 1935

VAL/3/A 6 inch maps for rural areas.
VAL/3/G large scale town maps.

Manuscript books available only in PRONI: VAL/3/C.
Revisions of First General Revaluation 1935-1957
VAL/3/A 6 inch maps for rural areas.
VAL/3/G large scale town maps.

The Census Records of 1901 and 1911 contain a Form B1 [House and Building Return] which lists all of the houses in each townland or street within each county in Ireland. Each house within the list is given a number .

I think these house numbers indicate the order in which the enumerator collected the completed forms and this order reflected his route around a townland or along a street. Likewise the order in which properties are listed in the Griffith's Valuation records reflected the route that the valuer took around a townland or along a street. In most cases the routes of the census enumerators and the valuers were usually different. However, once a particular route was initially established by the valuers in c.1860, the valuers who carried out the later revisions rarely changed that route. This makes it easier to cross-reference the census and valuation house numbers. Because the numbers used by the Griffith's valuers are also shown on accompanying large scale maps it is possible to identify the precise location of a house or a holding on a map and, ultimately, on the ground. There is one problem, however, that can arise in streets. From the later part of the nineteenth century streets were often renumbered with odd and even numbers. This renumbering took place on more than one occasion - the final result being the modern-day street number which can bear little resemblance to some of the earlier street numbers. Because of possible changes in numbering it is probably best to start with the Valuation of c.1860 and work your way forward to 1901 and 1911.

There are times when this system fails to find the exact location of a house and, to be honest, the system does not work so well for families who are not landholders. In my experience many families, where the head of household was a labourer, did not dwell long enough in a townland or street to be picked up by the valuers recording changes in the occupants of properties between 1860 and 1901. In such cases birth, marriage and death registers may be the only way of tracking the movements of these families during this period. However, as I have already said, only in some cases, will you be able to identify, exactly, where they were living within a townland or in a street.

The 1911 Census also provides a starting point for the changes that took place later in the twentieth century. The Griffith's Revision Books continue until c.1930. In 1935 the new state of Northern Ireland carried out a General Revaluation of all properties and followed that up with revisions to 1957 when a new General Revaluation was carried out. For more details on these later valuations see the PRONI Information Leaflet on Valuation Records. See example - Locating Properties and Families within the Townland of Drumadreen, Gelvin DED, Co. Londonderry c.1860 to c.1901.

Before c.1860

Unfortunately we do not have any surviving official census records for the first half of the nineteenth century. There is, however, a very important census substitute for Co. Londonderry, the 1831 "Census". Sometimes the names in it can be matched to the Tithe Applotment Books of 1828 to 1838. Some “connections” can often be made between the Tithe Applotment Books and the later c.1860 Griffith’s [Tenement] Valuation. - see example.

There is also a Townland Valuation for the 1830s but, although helpful at times, it is not as comprehensive or detailed as the c.1860 Valuation. In both counties Antrim and Londonderry any buildings valued at £3 or more are included and their locations marked on the accompanying valuation map. Since many houses throughout the countryside fell below this threshold its use is more limited in rural areas. However, the source is particularly useful for streets in towns where more houses would have reached the threshold.




Manuscript books available only in PRONI: FIN/5/A.

Tithe Applotment Books


Manuscript books available only in PRONI: VAL/1/B.

Townland Valuation

VAL/1/A 6 inch maps for rural areas.
VAL/1/D large scale town maps

Database containing an index of names and places in this census in right-hand menu of this website.
Microfilm copies of the census pages in PRONI: MIC5A, and in Ballymena & Coleraine Libraries.
1831 Census Returns for Co. Londonderry

The earlier sources of 1796, 1766, 1740 and the 1660s can help in identifying names. The databases of these census substitutes in the right-hand menu [which contain standardised surnames] should make this task easier. However, at best you only be able to establish the parish where ancestors might have lived and, perhaps, the townland - but tying these names to precise locations is rarely possible.

Remember, that in order to access and use any these sources, you will need to know in which baronies, parishes, PLUs, DEDs, etc. a townland or street was situated. You can access this information for Co. Londonderry and North & Mid Antrim at the Administrative Divisions link in the top menu. Also, it is always useful to have a modern-day OS map to hand. The best map here is the 1:50000 Discoverer Series with the townland map on the reverse side of the OS map [see example below]. These can be purchased in bookshops throught Northern Ireland or online at the OS Map Shop.

Note also that you can Google an address and you will probably get a location for the address on a Google map and, in the case of streets in towns, a modern day photograph of the house.

Copyright 2016 W. Macafee.