Irish Land Records

With the almost complete destruction of 19th century census returns, surviving land and property records have became very important when researching Irish genealogy. Two 19th century surveys cover the entire country, The Tithe Applotments of 123 to 1838 and Griffith's Valuation 1848-1864. Both of these used administrative divisions which are no longer in use. The smallest of these divisions, the townland, is one that has proved most enduring. These areas of land can vary in size from one acre to many thousands of acres. Townlands are mostly based on the ancient Gaelic "Bally betagh" although some have medieval origins. There are more than 64,000 townlands throughout Ireland. These were used as the smallest geographical unit in both the Tithe and Griffith's surveys as well as the 10-yearly census returns and are still in use today. Anything for 5 to 30 townlands may be grouped together to form a civil parish. These are a legacy of the Middle Ages, ore-dating the formation of counties. In-turn, civil parishes are grouped together in baronies. Originally related to the tribal divisions, the tuatha of Celtic Ireland, these were multiplied and subdivided over the centuries up to their standardisation in the 1500s, so that the current names represent a mixture of Gaelic, Anglo-Norman and English influences. A number of baronies are grouped together to form each of the thirty-two counties in Ireland.

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Tithe Applotment Books 1823 to 1838

The Composition Act of 1823 specified that tithes due to the Established Church, the Church of Ireland, which had until then been paid in kind, had to be pain in money. As a result, it was necessary to carry out a valuation of the entire country to determine how much would be payable by each householder. This was completed over the following 15 years, up to the abolition of Tithes in 1838. These Tithes were resented throughout the country especially the population who did not belong to the Church of Ireland. The information recorded in the Tithe Books is quite basic but nevertheless they are a valuable genealogical tool because the heaviest burden of tithes fell on the poorest of the population and no other country-wide survey or census survive from this era.

In 1821 an organised campaign of non-payment grew. In order to claim compensation for the loss of revenue, local Church of Ireland clergymen were required to produce lists of 'Tithe Defaulters'. Many of these lists still survive and some provide more details than the actual Tithe Books.

The usefulness of the Tithe Books depends on the nature of the research. Since only a name of the householder is given, with no information on family relationships, any conclusions drawn from the Tithes should be treated with caution. However, parishes whose registries do not begin until after 1850, the Tithe Books may be the only source of valuable evidence, especially if a holding was passed from father to son.

Griffith's Valuation 1846 to 1864

The introduction of the Tenement Act of 1842 provided a uniform valuation of all property in Ireland. The valuations from this Act were to be based on the productive capacity of land and the potential rent of buildings. The man appointed Commissioner of Valuation was Richard Griffith, a Dublin geologist. His survey, The Primary Valuation of Ireland was published between 1848 and 1864. The valuation was arranged by county, Poor Law Union, civil parish and townland and lists every land-holder and every householder in Ireland. Apart from the townland address and householder's name, the valuation also included the following:

  • name of the person from whom the property was leased (the immediate lessor);
  • Description of the property;
  • acreage;
  • valuation.
  • The valuation was never intended as a census substitute, and if the 1851 census had survived, it would have little genealogical significance. However as things stand, it is the only detailed guide to where people lived in Ireland during the mid 19th century and what property they possessed. Also, because the valuation entries were revised at regular intervals it is sometimes possible to trace living descendants of those originally listed by Griffith.

    Estate Records

    In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the majority of the Irish population lived as small tenant farmers on large estates owned in the most part by English or Anglo-Irish landlords. The administration of these estates produced large collections of records that included maps, tenants's lists, rental lists, account books, lease books etc. During the later part of the nineteenth century and throughout the twentieth century many of the estates were divided up and sold off and the collections of records have been passed on to records offices and libraries.

    Major Sources of Irish Ancestry

    Church Records Land Records Directories
    Registry of Deeds Wills Emigration Records
    Newspapers

    Genealogy Sources for each Irish County

    Antrim Armagh Carlow Cavan
    Clare Cork Derry (Londonderry) Donegal
    Down Dublin Fermanagh Galway
    Kerry Kildare Kilkenny Laois
    Leitrim Limerick Longford Louth
    Mayo Meath Monaghan Offaly
    Roscommon Sligo Tipperary Tyrone
    Waterford Westmeath Wexford Wicklow

    MY IRISH ANCESTORS FREE GENEALOGY ASSESSMENT

    If you need advice from one of our genealogy research team send a message and we will be happy to help. click HERE for more information

    OUR PRELIMINARY RESEARCH IS NOW REDUCED

    My Irish Ancestors have reduced our Preliminary Research by 65%

    Was £130 Now £49.99 CLICK HERE for more information