For both people within Ireland and people in Britain and elsewhere with Irish ancestry in their family trees, tracing your family history can be tricky. In Ireland many of the records that family historians rely on, such as census records and parish registers, were destroyed when the Public Record Office of Ireland burned down during the Irish Civil War. Smaller record sets such as Griffith’s Valuation are therefore more important in Irish ancestry.


Griffith’s Valuation is the final part of a survey of property in Ireland that commenced in 1825 with the establishment of the Boundary Department of Ireland, followed in 1826 by the Townland Valuation Act. The purpose was to create an accurate record of the exact measurement and value of land and buildings in each townland, in order to implement an equitable system of taxing property. The survey was led by Sir Richard Griffith (1784-1878), a geologist, mining engineer and chair of the Board of Works of Ireland.

‘Griffith’s Valuation’ is the nickname of the Primary Valuation of Tenements, which commenced in 1847 and brought together the information previously collected on the size, quality and value of property. The word ‘tenement’ just refers to any taxable property, not tenement flats. The valuation was organised by tenement and recorded the name of the occupier, their landlord, and the type, size and value of the land and buildings. The data was organised by townland, civil parish, barony and county. Nearly every property was subject to valuation, and the completed valuations were printed and published by barony. The title page for each barony recorded the date of publication.

Publication of Griffith's Valuation took 17 years and was only completed in 1864. So Griffith’s is not an accurate record of the population at one specific time, and you could find the same occupier listed in two locations. It also spans the period of the Irish Famine (1845-1849). If your Irish ancestor does not appear in Griffith’s Valuation, they may have died, emigrated or been forced to enter the workhouse. Some people recorded in the Valuation may also have been temporarily displaced from their home by the famine.

The Griffith’s Valuation records are available on Findmypast and Ancestry, and for free on Ask About Ireland. Both sites allow searches by personal name or place name, although Ask About Ireland requires the exact spelling of personal names.

You can access Griffith’s maps at Findmypast which in most cases illustrate the boundaries of each numbered lot. The maps on Ask About Ireland are described as Griffith’s maps, but actually date from the 1880s and 1890s, by which time boundaries and lot numbers may have changed.

The valuation recorded the occupier and their landlord. The occupier is the person responsible for paying the tax on the property, usually the head of the household. Unlike in census records, other members of the family do not appear. The heads of household are usually men, although some are women, generally widows who took over their husband’s property.

The first column in the records lists the name of the property resident, and the second column lists the 'Immediate Lessor' — the person who collects the rent, who could be the owner or a middleman. If the immediate lessor is described as 'in fee', that means the resident owns the property.

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In a townland where there were several people with the same name, ‘agnomens’ – technically, extra names – were included to tell them apart. Most often 'junior' or 'senior' was added to distinguish between a father and son, but other identifiers, such as the personal name of a tenant’s father, the maiden name of a widow, the hair colour or a similar detail about a tenant’s appearance, and their occupation, were also used.

The Griffith’s Valuation records also include the size and value of each property, and descriptions such as ‘House and garden’. It also includes canals and railways. The occupier of a house with no land was more likely a labourer, tradesman or professional than a farmer. The details allow you to estimate how much money your ancestors had. At the time Ireland was ruled by Britain and used the English pound, so you can convert the value of a property into modern pounds using The National Archives’ currency converter.


What are the Valuation Revision Books?

After Griffith's Valuation, updates on the records known as valuation revisions were conducted annually. The updated records were collected in ledgers known as 'Current Land Books'. The 1864 to 1933 valuation revisions for Northern Ireland, comprising approximately three million records, are available on the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland website and on Ancestry. The valuation revisions for the Republic of Ireland are not available online but can be viewed at the Valuation Office in Dublin.