THERE'S MORE TO GRIFFITH'S VALUATION THAN NAMES
by James R. Reilly

The status accorded by Irish record searchers to the information found in Sir Richard Griffith's General Valuation of Rateable Property In Ireland in large part is due to the destruction of the nineteenth century population schedules. His General Valuation, conducted under the Act of 15 & 16 Victoria, c 63 between 1853 and 1865, constitutes an almost complete enumeration of land occupiers for the years following the Great Famine.

Although commonly referred to as "Griffith's Primary Valuation," this Valuation is, in fact, the third in a series of valuations supervised by Griffith since becoming Ireland's Commissioner of Valuation in 1830. It should be noted that all thirty-two counties were valued or revalued under this 1852 Act, thus invalidating all other earlier assessments. Three characteristics make it unique among the others; first, it created a uniform valuation of lands and tenements to be used for all public and local assessments for the entire country rather than the earlier unsatisfactory locally conducted surveys; second, it continues unchanged as the basis of taxation in modern day Ireland; and, most importantly for the genealogist, it was conducted "by the book".

To assure that this valuation would be carried out within well defined scientific guidelines and procedures, Griffith composed a field manual entitled INSTRUCTIONS to the VALUATORS and SURVEYORS for the Uniform Valuation of LANDS and TENEMENTS in Ireland. He left no doubt in the minds of his staff about the level of efficiency he expected when he stated unequivocally in the manual that "Whenever it shall appear that any part of the foregoing Instructions shall have been neglected, or the work imperfectly or carelessly conducted, and that in consequence a more extended revision shall be necessary for the purpose of correcting errors or omissions, the valuator or surveyor in such cases cannot be retained in the Valuation service."

Close examination of the Valuation reveals direct information about the economical condition of an ancestor, of his siblings and his relatives; it described and values his house and its adjacent structures. It often reveals an occupation, that may lead to further sources of information. Family relationships can often be deduced from the frequency and proximity of a same name. The absence of an ancestor's name may be explained by clues found in the Valuation beyond the simple "Oh, be went to America."

SELECTED TERMS FOUND IN GRIFFITH'S VALUATION

Agnomen: A term selected by the valuer to distinguish between two individuals with identical given and surnames who occupy holdings in the same townland; father's given name, hair color, height, occupation, and similar distinguishing terms are used.

Cess: Tax or assessment.

Cottage: A dwelling house of small size and humble character, such as is occupied by farm laborers, villagers, miners, etc.

Conacre: A system whereby land was let, not for a number of years, but for a single season (eleven months), with the rent paid in labor by the occupier.

Fair green: Land in a town or village set aside for market day activities.

Fee: A legal term denoting ownership of the property or holding.

Free: Indicates an occupier who holds by right of possession and recognizes no landlord; a "squatter".

Freehold: A form of tenure in which land is held in fee simple, fee tail, or for a term of life.

House: All buildings used permanently as dwellings, and all public buildings such as houses of worship, courthouses, etc.

Hereditament: Any kind of property that can be inherited; real property.

In Chancery: The name of the reputed proprietor of a holding in litigation in the Court of Chancery.

Land Measures (Irish): A statute acre contains 4840 square yards (four roods), a rood contains 1210 square yards (40 perche); a perche contains 30 1/4 square yards.

Office: Factories, mills, stores, stables, cow sheds, pig sty, etc.

Plantation: Land used for the planting of trees and shrubbery.

Pound: An enclosure maintained by authority for the detention of stray or trespassing cattle, as well as for the keeping of distrained cattle or goods until redeemed.

Reps: A person representing the deceased occupier of a holding.

Rundale: An 18th century system of land holding in which a group of tenants rented a parcel of land dividing it among themselves. (See next article "The Rundle System of Land Holding")

Severance: The division of an estate into independent parts.

Tenement: A ratable hereditment held or possessed for any term, tenure or agreement not less than from year to year. One person may hold several distinct tenements, and several persons may hold one tenement.

Waste: Ground under houses, yards, streets and small gardens; land under barren cliffs, beaches, etc. along the seashore and small loughs (bodies of water).

LIST OF COUNTIES AND CITIES, SHOWING THE DATES AT WHICH THE VALUATION OF EACH WAS COMPLETED

Counties
 
Carlow
Cork
Dublin
Kerry
Kilkenny
Kilkenny City
Limerick
Limerick City
Queen's County
Tipperary
Waterford
Waterford Borough
Dublin City
Kildare
Wexford
Wicklow
King's County
Longford
Louth
Drogheda Borough
Meath
Westmeath
Clare
Galway Town
Cavan
Galway
Leitrim
Mayo
Donegal
Roscommon
Sligo
Londonderry
Tyrone
Monaghan
Antrim
Carrickfergus
Fermanagh
Down
Armagh
Date of Issue of Valuation
 
28 June 1853
20 July 1853
9 July 1853
19 July 1853
8 July 1853
8 July 1853
29 June 1853
29 June 1853
28 June 1853
29 June 1853
5 July 1863
5 July 1863
31 Oct 1854
18 July 1854
7 July 1854
4 July 1854
2 July 1855
6 July 1855
5 July 1855
6 July 1855
10 July 1855
5 July 1855
3 July 1856
14 July 1856
25 June 1857
29 June 1857
6 July 1857
13 July 1857
6 July 1858
1 July 1858
7 July 1858
16 July 1859
13 July 1860
1 July 1861
10 July 1862
10 July 1862
4 July 1864
12 July 1864
1 June 1865

Source: Fitzpatrick, James F., Esq. A Practical Guide to the Valuation of Rent in Ireland, Dublin: E. Ponsonby, 1881.

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For a more detailed article by James R. Reilly see:
http://www.leitrim-roscommon.com/GRIFFITH/volunteers/Griffiths.PDF