Introduction to the PRONI Talk, 19th February 2014.

Understanding an ancestor’s neighbourhood: The Griffith’s Valuation Books, Maps, and Revision Books

Valuation records provide us with important place information on land, houses and people which allow us to see, exactly, where our ancestors lived during the period c.1830 to 1930; as well as giving us some idea of what it was like to live there at that time.

I will begin with an overview of the Valuation Records covering the years c.1830 to c.1930 and then move on to show how I would use these sources to answer some questions relating to the townland of Seacon More, near Ballymoney.

Note that my experience of using Valuation Records is restricted to the area of Ulster covered by my website – Co. Londonderry and North & Mid Antrim.

The first general valuation of all houses and holdings in Ireland was undertaken during the period 1846–64. This valuation is better known as the Griffith’s Valuation after the man, Sir Richard Griffith [1784-1878] , who had been appointed , in 1827, as the Commissioner of the General Survey and Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland, following the First Valuation Act of 1826. Although, Sir Richard was also in charge of the First [Townland] Valuation of the 1830s, his name has become inextricably linked with the Printed Valuation of 1846-64.

Note that the 1846-64 valuation was a TENEMENT valuation to distinguish it from the earlier TOWNLAND valuation of the 1830s. The word tenement here refers to the medieval meaning of the word - "any kind of real property held by one person from another ; a holding" as opposed to the more modern usage of the word - "a large building divided into separate flats for rent.....and usually found in urban areas".

The earlier townland valuation did not identify separate holdings within rural townlands. Instead, it concentrated on identifying different qualities of land within a townland and only included those houses and buildings above a certain valuation. Initially this was £3, later raised to £5. Only in towns were a reasonable number of houses and names recorded. Despite these limitations, the Townland Valuation can, at times, prove very useful.

The valuation for the entire island of Ireland was carried out during the years 1846 to 1864, so, the dates for various counties and regions can vary considerably. Co. Dublin, for example was surveyed as early as 1846 and the results published in 1847. Co. Londonderry was surveyed between 1856 and 1858 and the information was recorded in the valuers' field book and on the relevant OS maps. The information in the valuers’ field books was printed in Dublin by Alex Thom & Sons and the printed volumes for County Londonderry are dated either 1858 or 1859. The corresponding dates for North and Mid Antrim were 1859 to 1861 for the field books and 1861 or 1862 for the printed books. In giving dates to the various documents referring to the Griffith's Valuation for Co. Londonderry and North & Mid Antrim, I have simply appended the date c.1860 except where it is appropriate and possible to assign a specific date.

The original valuers' field books are held in PRONI: VAL/2/B. Although the information in many of the VAL/2/B books will be exactly the same as that in the printed valuation, there can be discrepancies between the two books. Also, particularly in towns, some books contain detailed information on buildings, similar to that in the 1830s Townland Valuation. Have a look at the paper on the VAL/2/B Field Books on the main Valuation Records webpage.

The printed volumes are available on the shelves of the Public Search Room in PRONI and most libraries in Northern Ireland have copies of the volumes referring to their local areas. The printed pages are now online, free, at the askaboutireland.ie website.

Accompanying the valuation books are the valuer’s annotated set of Ordnance Survey maps, showing the location of every property. Note that you will find the numbers of the relevant OS sheets listed, in brackets, under the name of each townland in the pages of the printed books. Copies of these maps are available at PRONI, and some local libraries.

The six inch maps covering the countryside are catalogued in PRONI as the VAL/2A series and the larger scale maps covering towns are catalogued as the VAL/2/D series. Many of the VAL/2/A maps are very difficult to read and we now often turn to the much clearer online maps available at the askaboutireland.ie website. There can , at times, be some problems with these maps and you will be looking at this in more detail in the Griffith’s [Tenement] Valuation c.1860 Paper. I should say, however, that in most cases there is not a problem, but there can, sometimes, be mismatches in the numbering between the map and the book.

In order to demonstrate how the various valuation sources can be used when researching ancestors and localities, I will try to answer these two questions which relate to the townland of Seacon More, near the town of Ballymoney in North Antrim.

Who was living in houses 4Ba & 6Ba in Seacon More in the 1861 Griffith’s; and who was living there in 1901?

Where, exactly were these houses located within the townland and what do the Valuation Records tell us about them, and, what was happening in the townland of Seacon in the 19th & early 20th centuries?

Where is Seacon More? It is situated about two miles outside the town of Ballymoney in North Antrim.

There are in fact three Seacon townlands – Seacon Beg, Seacon Lower and Seacon More

I would suggest that you begin with the paper on c.1860 Griffith's Valuation followed by the PowerPoint on the c.1860-c.1930 Griffith's Revision Books. The paper on the 1830s Townland Valuation will take the "story" back to the earlier part of the ninteeenth century.

Copyright 2015 W. Macafee.