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Land Records

The best known Irish land record is Griffith's Valuation of 1848 to 1864, together with its notebooks and its follow up annual revision books.

The Primary or Griffith's Valuation  of Ireland 1848 to 1864
The Primary Valuation or Griffith's Valuation as it is better known, is the only source in Irish genealogy that shows where people lived and what property they possessed, immediately following "the great Irish famine". A map is also available which, shows the exact location of a farm and indeed, the actual location of farmhouses on the farm. The survey was undertaken by the Commissioner of Valuation, Sir Richard Griffith to assess property for local taxation purposes.

It lists for all properties;

  • the number of the property on an accompanying map.
  • the address of the property (i.e. County, Barony, Poor Law Union, Parish and Townland).
  • the name of the occupier (i.e. the head of household).
  • the immediate lessor (i.e. the landlord)
  • the description of the property (i.e. house, office, land, mill etc).
  • the acreage in A. R. P. (i.e. acres, roods and purches).
  • the annual ratable valuation (i.e. for land and building).

The Annual Revision Books.
These are a continuous up-dating of the information contained in the original Griffith's Valuation of ratable property. They show changes in occupancy and ratable value and are color coded and changes marked in different colored inks for different years, making them very useful for pinpointing a possible time of death or emigration, or identifying a living relative. In the North they run from the time immediately following the publication of the printed volumes to 1929.

Field, House and Tenure Books.
These are the actual notebooks used by Griffith's surveyors to compile the valuation. 
Field Books give details on the acreage and the value of the land.
House Books give the occupier's name and the measurement and use of offices or outhouses on the holdings.
Tenure Books also give the occupier's name, the annual rent and the legal basis on which the holding was held (i.e. at will or by lease). This information is very useful as it relates to the years before the printed volumes of Griffith's were publication. Often these book give information that does not appear in the printed volumes. 

Tithe Applotment Books 1823 to 1838.
Tithes were greatly resented by the vast majority of the farming population of Ireland, as they were paid directly to  the Established Church, regardless of the religious persuasion of the tenant.  They were based on the average price of oats and wheat between 1816 to 1822 and was levied at different rates depending on the quality of the productive land. Often grass land and forestry were exempt and so large swathes of the big Church of Ireland landlords property excepted Tithes and the greatest burden, as usual, fell on the poor tenant farmer, who could least afford to pay it. 

Hearth Money Rolls 1663-1669.
These are arranged by county and parish and list only the name of the householder and the number of hearth on which he was taxed. It survived for over half of all counties.

Books of Survey and Distribution (1662-1702).
The Books of Survey and Distribution were an official record of the landed proprietors and their respective estates. They are arranged by barony, parish and townland and list the land, the owner prior to 1641, the new owner and the amount of land received in the Cromwellian Settlement and the land forfeited in 1688 which was sold in 1701-2. 

The Down Survey Maps 1654-5.
In 1654 trained surveyors applotted all the land recently forfeited and also stated whether the land was wood, bog, mountain, arable, meadow or pasture. The divisions used were barony, parish and townland. The landowner was also listed and his religion. While much of this material was lost in the Civil War 1922 various maps for nearly all counties survive.

The Civil Survey 1654-56.
This lists the landlords, his/her religion and property in 1649. It is arranged by county, barony, parish and townland and gives interesting local topographical details.

Estate Records.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the vast majority of the population lived as small tenant farmers on large estates. These estates were let to middlemen who in turn sub-let either at will or by short term leases to the small landholders. Many of the records, maps, tenants' lists, rentals, accounts etc. exist in public repositories but they vary greatly as to their content and usefulness but in some cases can be very rewarding.

Registry of Deeds (from 1708).
Deeds etc. exist from 1708 but as a general rule relate to property of merchants and large farmers.

Land Registry (from 1858).
The ownership of property transferred from 1858 must be registered in the Land Registry.