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About Griffith's Valuation 1847-1864

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Origins.net have partnered with Ireland's best family history research and publishing company, Eneclann Ltd and The National Library of Ireland to make available the most complete Griffith's Primary Valuation of Ireland.

Because most of the census records for the nineteenth century were destroyed in 1922, when the Public Records Office was burned down, Griffith's Valuation represents the most comprehensive survey of households available for the period. For this reason, it is a principal tool of genealogists and local historians.

Unlike previous attempts to index or publish Griffith's Valuation, this will be the first time the entire survey has been published since it was originally issued in the 19th century. This edition contains all the original publications, revisions and amended versions that were published over the 17 years it took to complete the valuation. No library in any country in the world, including Ireland, has a full set of Griffith's Valuation. So for the first time researchers can be sure that they have all the source material at hand in one place. Users can search a complete database of personal and place names, and then access scanned images of the original published pages.

What is Griffith's Valuation?
The valuation of Ireland (technically known as the Primary Valuation of Tenements) was completed between the years 1847 and 1864 and has become known as Griffith's Valuation partly because of the influence of its Director, Richard Griffith. This massive project was undertaken to assess the payment of various local taxes by the people of Ireland. These taxes were linked to the value of property occupied by each tax payer. The results of the valuers' work were published in a series of over 300 volumes detailing the names of all the property occupiers (not simply owners) in Ireland and the value of their house and land.


Why is Griffith's Valuation important today?
The 19th century Irish census records were destroyed in two disasters - either because they were pulped for paper during WWI or incinerated when the Public Record Office in Dublin was burned down in 1922. This has meant than Griffith's Valuation has become a vitally important "census substitute" for mid-19th century Ireland, in the years between the Great Famine and the beginning of civil registration in 1864. The valuation covers the entire country: every property in Ireland was included in the valuation, with the occupier's name (as well as the name of the person to whom the occupier paid rent). The occupier would generally be the head of the household. The valuation covers not just houses, but also buildings and land of any description, and so lists every landholder and occupier who paid rates in Ireland. Genealogists and family historians will be able to find a wealth of information to link together family members, as well as giving an indication of how their ancestors lived.


What is the structure of Griffith's Valuation?
Originally, under legislation in 1846, the valuation was to be done by Barony, with a volume printed for each barony. Within each book, houses, lands and their occupiers were enumerated by civil parish and townland (the basic land units in Ireland). Each entry gives this detailed location information for each plot, along with the occupier's name, the immediate lessor's name, description of the property, acreage, rateable valuation of the land and buildings, and annual valuation. In 1852, the valuation format was changed in the midst of the valuers' work. Thereafter valuation was done by Poor Law Union (rather than Barony). Otherwise the format remained very similar to those published prior to 1852. The bulk of the valuation was done by Poor Law Union, but the earlier volumes by barony were not recomputed or revalued.


Why are there different versions of the Valuation?
Under the 1846 Act that set out the plan for the Valuation, there were to be three publications for each Barony: first a full valuation, then a publication listing the appeals made against the valuation, and lastly a completely revised version of the valuation for each barony. The list of amendments are important because they also contain the reasons given for the appeal, which typically record that a person's name has been recorded inaccurately, or that they are no longer resident, or that the valuation is too high, etc. Because there was often a five year gap between the first publication and the last there can be significant changes recorded in occupation. Under the 1852 Act, which meant that the Valuation was published by Poor Law Union, there was no requirement to publish amendments or a revised edition.


How were the occupiers listed in Griffith Valuation?
Usually by last name, then first given name or initial, and often with an agnomen (or additional name) if there was more than one occupier of the same family and given name. These agnomen are a major benefit of this valuation as they can give much needed additional information about an occupier, e.g. Jr., Sr., or physical characteristics, which can be helpful for genealogical research.


Has Griffith's Valuation been indexed before?
There have been several attempts to index this source, but the most complete index to date is that being produced for Irish Origins. Earlier attempts had a number of weaknesses:
  • they did not include occupier forenames (e.g. The Index of Surnames or Householders Index)
  • they did not include immediate lessors' names (e.g. the All-Ireland Heritage Inc. indexes)
  • they did not cover the entire country (e.g. Heritage World/Genealogical Publishing Company CD-ROM)
  • they did not include all the various versions of the printed valuation, like the lists of amendments and completely revised volumes
This project aims at providing an online index to all personal and place names, maps references, and other location information for every publication produced by the Valuation Office during the course of the Griffith's Valuation. It will cover the entire country, and be the definitive version. At present of 301 publications known to have been produced during the Primary Valuation, 300 have been indexed in this project, and the index data and digitised images of all these publications will be provided on Irish Origins. These 300 publications cover all properties within Ireland at the time of Griffith's Valuation.


Where are the original volumes of Griffith's Valuation located?
Although the original volumes of Griffith's Valuation are located in many different repositories, there does not appear to be a complete version of the valuation in any one repository, either original volume, or on microfilm today. The National Library of Ireland in Dublin and the Valuation Office in Dublin probably have the largest collection of original volumes. There are also large holdings at the National Archives of Ireland, the Genealogical Office, and the Gilbert Library (for Dublin only). The material on Irish Origins represents what we believe to be the most complete version of the Griffith Valuation in one place. It has been created in association with the National Library of Ireland, and with the help of the Valuation Office, Genealogical Office, National Archives of Ireland, the Gilbert Library and the private collection of George Handran.


Who was Richard Griffith?
Richard Griffith (20 Sept 1784 - 22 Sept 1878) was born in Dublin, the son of a Member of Parliament, and certainly of the Irish Ascendancy; he was a geologist by occupation. He worked for the Royal Dublin Society as a geologist and was longest employed by the government as director of the Valuation Office from 1839 to 1868. He was created a baronet on 8 March 1858. He is best remembered for his work on the Griffith Valuation, particularly his persistent advocacy of a scale of fixed prices, combined with a careful examination of the soil and sub-soil as the proper basis of valuation, as well as his autocratic management of the Valuation Office. His achievements as a valuator were considerable: he supervised official valuation in Ireland for nearly 40 years and his valuation remained in use in Ireland until the 1970s.


Were there other valuations completed in Ireland?
The Townland Valuation in 1826 was the first nineteenth century attempt to create a uniform valuation of land in Ireland to deal with the local county 'cess' tax. The second (or Tenement Valuation, now known as Griffith's Valuation) was created to deal with the problems and errors found in the Townland Valuation. In accordance with the new act in 1846, the land was to be valued by barony and is discussed above; but by 1852 it was determined that the 1846 valuation needed to be revised, and was completed by Poor Law Union, also discussed above.


Why is Griffith's Valuation better than previous valuations?
Griffith's Valuation was superior for several reasons:
  • It valued individual farms and all houses.
  • It was carried out under the supervision of a central authority, with Richard Griffith acting as Commissioner of the Valuation.
  • The valuation became the basis for all subsequent local taxation.
  • The principles on which the valuation was based were clearly enunciated and described in detail.
The aim of the valuation was to produce a uniform guide to the relative value of land throughout the whole country by ascertaining the net value of every farm (the net value being the computed margin between the value of the produce of the farm and its cost of production after making an allowance for the burden of local taxation). This method of valuation - based on the assumption that the value of land could be computed on clearly enunciated principles - was completely different from the methods used in other parts of the United Kingdom where the actual letting value was the basis of official valuation.


Acknowledgements
Thanks to George Handran. George B. Handran, CG, is both a lawyer with expertise in estate law, and a certified genealogist specialising in Irish research. He has lectured extensively throughout the US, and was formerly a board member of both NGS and BCG. He is based in Boston, Mass.


See also:  Help searching Griffith's Valuation
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