Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation of Ireland 1846-1864 [also known as the Primary Valuation of Ireland]

The first general valuation of all houses and holdings in Ireland was undertaken during the period 1846–64 and officially is known as the Primary Valuation of Ireland. However, the valuation is better known as Griffith’s Valuation after Sir Richard Griffith [1784-1878] who had been appointed as the Commissioner of the General Survey and Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland in 1827, 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 I have used the word [TENEMENT] in the title of the 1846-64 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 of the 1830s 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 in towns and certain rural areas. The later 1846-64 valuation values all holdings and all houses within each townland.

The tenement 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 books and on the relevant OS maps. The reason for the later dates in most of the counties of Ulster is the fact that they were the first counties to be mapped in the 1830s. Since the early First Edition, Six Inch Maps did not show field boundaries they were not suitable for use with a tenement valuation. The valuers had to await the revisions of these First Edition Maps which were not completed in Ulster until the mid 1850s.

The handwritten field books produced by the valuers were printed in Dublin by Alex Thom & Son. The printed volumes for County Londonderry are dated either 1858 or 1859 - the Field Books dated two years earlier.. 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 normally 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. It is always useful to check these field books if you are unable to find someone whom you think should be living in a townland or locality c.1860.

The printed volumes are arranged by Poor Law Union within counties. There is an index at the front of each volume which enables researchers to identify the page or pages in which a specific townland may be found. I have copied the Index pages for the Poor Law Unions of Ballymoney, part of Coleraine in Co. Antrim, Ballycastle, Ballymena, Antrim and Larne - see PDF file. I have also copied the Index pages for the Poor Law Unions of Londonderry, Newtownlimavady, Coleraine and Magherafelt in Co. Londonderry - see PDF file. Now that scans of the pages are available, free, at the askaboutireland.ie website, there is less need for these indexes unless, of course, you wish to use one of the books. It can be quite difficult to find a townland or a street in these books so the index is essential. Note that, with the exception of Antrim PLU, the indexes on the PDF file will give you the precise date of publication for each of the Poor Law Unions.

Accompanying the valuation books are the valuer’s annotated set of Ordnance Survey maps, showing the location of every property. Note that the 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. These maps are also available at PRONI and, in some cases, there are copies also available in local libraries. The six inch maps covering the countryside are known as the VAL/2A series and the larger scale maps covering towns are known as the VAL/2/D series. Note that most of the VAL/2/A maps are very difficult to read. This is because these maps were the working copies used by the valuers. Fortunately, you can turn to online valuation maps at the askaboutireland.ie website where you will find maps, powered by Google. Whilst the askaboutireland.ie maps are usually very clear you have to be careful that the askaboutireland map you are looking at matches the valuation book that you are using. I have to say in most cases there is not a problem, but there can be mismatches between the map and the book. You will find a direct link to the askaboutireland website on the main Valuation Records webpage as well as some notes that I have put together, based on my experiences of using the site, which I have to say is excellent and very easy to use.

Each property within each townland or street is given a number which appears in both the Valuation Book and the Valuation Map. This means that when searching for an ancestor c.1860 you should be able to locate their house on the map and, although the house may have gone today, you should be able to identify, on the ground, where that house stood within a townland or street. You will find a number of rural and urban examples on the main Valuation Records webpage which should help those of you not familar with the Griffith's Valuation Maps and the numbering and lettering in the Valuation Book..

The Griffith's Valuation of 1846-1864 was revised periodically between c.1860 and c.1930. The changes in townlands and streets were recorded in field books. These [manuscript] field books are held in PRONI and have recently become available online - see Steven Scarth's paper "Valuing the Past: PRONI's online Valuation Records" in the most recent edition of the journal Familia [Ulster Genealogical Review], No. 29, 2013, pp.83-95. We can use the information in these books [along with the accompanying valuation maps] to chart the changes in names and properties within a townland or street between the date of the Printed Valuation of c.1860 and c.1930, the latest date in the Revision Books. En route, it is also possible to match the lists of names in the Revision Books with those in the 1901 and 1911 Census lists.

Below is a diagram which summarises the key Valuation Records [c.1830-c.1975] held in PRONI, Belfast.

I have also included the online askaboutireland.ie website and the 1901/1911 Census. The latter is crucial when using the Valuation Revision Books around that period. If you want to carry on looking for people and where they lived in a locality after 1930 then it will be necessary to switch to the General Revaluation of Northern Ireland, Books & Maps - first published in 1935 - producing the equivalent of a new Griffith's for that year - followed by a number of revisions and revaluations up to the 1990s. Again, these books and maps are only available in PRONI, Belfast.

Copyright 2015 W. Macafee.