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County Kerry

Explanation of Griffiths Valuation,
Householders Index,
Tithe Applotment

What is Griffiths Valuation?

The Valuation was a property tax assessment in Ireland (following one done in England) that set the money due annually to the tax collector, money that financed the Irish Poor Laws. Because no detailed Irish census information exists prior to 1901, the Griffiths Valuation (officially known as "The Primary Valuation of Tenements") is the primary 19th century resource for indentifying the townland of Irish individuals and their families. Irish civil record-keeping (births / deaths / marriages) did not begin until 1864.
Because it is a tax valuation, it lists only the holder (lessee) of property and the person from whom the property was leased, who also may have been a lessee. Very few women are named as lessees. The list should be compared with names found on a similar valuation done in the 1820's.

When was it done?

The data for the various Counties was collected between 1848 to 1864. The assessment crews worked from south to north, ending up in Ulster. The Valuation was authorized by the English Tenement Act of 1942. The Act was based on the need for a "modern" basis for determining equitable taxation in Ireland and by the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1830, which among other things freed all property owners from having to pay the Tithe tax to the Church of Ireland. An impetus was given to the implementation of the Act by the unhappy timing of this occuring right at the time of the Potato Blight in Ireland, when so many people died or left the country, and landlords began to consolidate their lands.

Who conducted it?

The agents of Sir Richard Griffiths, a Dublin geologist responsible for building many of the roads into the rural areas of Ireland in the 1820's after the previous potato blight. The roads served the purpose of opening up previously undeveloped areas in the west of Ireland to commerce, and to the authorities in pursuit of agrarian activists.
Every field, every house and every outhouse of every property-holder in Ireland was examined, measured and categorized. All the details were noted down. Then the value of each individual farm and farm building was calculated. Buildings were valued by assessing the net annual letting value; land was valued by working out the value of the agricultural produce it was capable of yielding each year.

Where do I find it?

The complete Griffiths collection is found only on microfilm. Odds and ends may be found on the Internet. The IGSI has a complete collection in its library in Minnesota; many LDS Family History Centers in areas with large Irish populations may keep Griffiths. All other Family History Centers have access to Griffiths for short term periods through their rental program. Organizations may purchase microfiche at a nominal cost.

What information does it contain?

There are two parts to Griffiths: the Householders Index and the Record Sheet.

Householders Index

This index was created in the 1960's by the Irish National Library ("saints be praised"). Without it, the records would be very difficult to use. The index lists all the surnames found in the records, plus the counties and baronies in which they are found.

The Householders Index is alphabetical, with a surname followed by the number of times it is found in Griffiths. G2 means there are 2 entries for that surname, and G15 means there are 15. Adjacent to the Griffiths number, is only a T, indicating there is at least one Tithe Applotment listing for that surname.

Griffiths can be invaluable for relatively uncommon names, but it is of little assistance when a particular surname is plentiful in a county. Researchers most frequently use it to narrow the number of parish records to be searched when only the county of origin is known.

The individual County and Parish/Townland Records follow, sorted first by barony, then poor law union, civil parish, and then an alphabetical listing of each townland. This is where you hope to find your ancestors. After you find your first quot;name.", don't stop looking! Remember, the Index listed the number of times that name can be found. You need to look at all the townlands in that parish until you come up with the total number given.

Ireland is a rural country. All of its cities were settled by the Vikings (Waterfjord) and the English. The Townland has no government per se, (as does the US Township) and is more like a rural neighborhood. As such, it can be smaller than 40 acres, or over 800 acres. What that means is, whether or not you find people in the parish you expect, you should also search in neighboring townlands in adjacent parishes.

For this reason, it would be wise to consult the crude Townland Maps on microfilm, which show the location of townlands with respect to each other. Your family may be living a quarter mile down the road.

Record Sheet

The second part of Griffiths is the Record Sheet, listing the Parish and Townland and the desired information:

(A) (B) (C) (D) (E) (F) (G)
Lot No. Occupier Lessor Description of Tenement Area Rateable Annual Valuation Total Annual Valuation
of Rateable Property
Land Building
1A name name type of property acres-roods-perches pounds-shillings-pence

See a photo of an example of a Griffiths record sheet.

The Cancelled Books

From Irish Roots magazine
The published version of Griffiths valuation reflects the tenure of Irish land as it was in the middle of the last century. Clearly, the passage of time altered the situation: proprietors moved on, emigrated, died. The tax collectors had to keep an account of these changes. They did so by keeping manuscript copies of the original valuation books and constantly updating them. The pages of the manuscript books, apart from having an extra column, headed observations, are identical to the pages of Griffiths Valuation. When a landholder was replaced, a line was drawn through his/her name,and the name of his/her replacement was written above it. The year of the change was written in the 'Observations' column. Inks of various colours were used for these purposes, so the date of each change may be seen at a glance.

After about fifteen years, an accumulation of changes, noted in inks of different colours, made these books very crowded and difficult to read. At this point, the procedure was to transcribe the most up-to-date information into a new book, where the same process was continued. Each area required about half a dozen books to accommodate all the changes that took place before the present century began. The old or 'cancelled' books for each individual district were kept together and bound in volumes. Some of the tenure changes were also recorded on Ordnance Survey maps. The cancelled books and maps constitute the archive of the Valuation Office. Similar valuation material relating to the six counties of Northern Ireland is held at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 66 Balmoral Avenue, Belfast.

Creative Ways to Search in Griffith

- Plot your "names" on copies of the Townland maps to see families who lived near each other.
- Compare sizes of parcels and calculate how a Townland may have survived the Potato Blight.

Tithe Applotment Books

The Composition Act of 1823 specified that tithes due to the Established Church - the Church of Ireland, which had hitherto been payable in-kind, should now be paid in money. As a result, it was necessary to carry out a valuation of the entire country, civil parish by civil parish, to determine how much each landholder would pay. This was done over the ensuing 15 years, up to the abolition of tithes in 1838.

Not surprisingly, tithes were fiercely resented by non-members of the Church of Ireland, all the more because the tax was not levied equally on all land. The exemptions produced spectacular inequalities. For instance, in Munster, tithes were payable on potato patches but not on grassland, with the result that the poorest had to pay most. The exemptions also meant that the Tithe Books are not comprehensive. Apart from the fact that they omit entirely anyone not in occupation of land, certain categories of land, varying from area to area, are simply passed over in silence. They do not give a full list of householders. Nonetheless, they do constitute the only country-wide survey for the period, and are valuable precisely because the heaviest burden of tithes fell on the poorest, for whom few other records survive.

From a genealogical point of view, the information recorded in the Tithe Books is quite basic, consisting typically of townland name, landholder's name, area of land, and tithes payable. In addition, many Books also record the landlord's name and an assessment of the economic productivity of the land; the tax was based on the average price of wheat and oats over the seven years up to 1823, and was levied at a different rate depending on the quality of the land. The original Tithe Books for the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland are available in the National Archives. Those for the six counties of Northern Ireland were transferred to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland in 1924. Photostat copies of these are available at the National Archives, and microfilm copies in the National Library.

The usefulness of the Tithe Books can vary enormously, depending on the nature of the research. Since only a name is given, with no indication of family relationships, any conclusions drawn are inevitably somewhat speculative. However, for parishes where registers do not begin until after 1850, they are often the only early records surviving. They can provide valuable circumstantial evidence, especially where a holding passed from father to son in the period between the Tithe survey and Griffiths Valuation. The surnames in the Books have been roughly indexed, in the National Library Index of Surnames, described more fully in Griffiths Valuation.

More about Sir Richard Griffith

From Irish Roots, 1993 Number 3
"The position of Commissioner of Valuation was but one of the many important posts held by Sir Richard Griffith during his lifetime. In 1864, the Lords of the Treasury remarked that since 1819 "scarcely an inquiry has been held . . . connected with the national improvement of this country with which Sir Richard Griffith has not been associated, and most usefully, for the public interest."

He was a man possessed of enormous mental and physical energy. He claimed that during the years of his peak activity, he had travelled from the north to the south side of Ireland as many as forty times annually, usually travelling by night to avoid loss of daylight hours in the field. Even in his seventies, Griffith, attired in a swallow-tailed coat, was still striding over the Dingle mountains during torrential downpours of rain which severely taxed the stamina of men half

Thanks to Ray Marshall for contributing this information. Please contact him if you have questions.

This page created June, 1999, for County Kerry, Ireland at


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