How-To Articles

Griffith's Valuation
A 19th Century Irish Census Substitute

What is Griffith's Valuation?

The Griffith's Valuation, or Primary Valuation of Ireland, was executed under the direction of Sir Richard Griffith to determine the amount of tax each person should pay towards the support of the poor within their poor law union (a division of land). This involved determining the value of all privately held lands and buildings in rural as well as urban areas to figure the rate at which each unit of property could be rented year after year. The resulting survey was arranged by barony and civil parish with an index to the townlands appearing in each volume. The original volumes of the survey are held in the National Archives and National Library in Dublin and the Public Record Office in Belfast.

An Excellent Tool for Hunting Irish Ancestors

Griffith's Valuation is an invaluable reference for family historians with ancestors in Ireland since no census material of the nineteenth century has survived. In effect, Griffith's Valuation can be used as a census substitute for the years before, during, and after the Great Famine (1845-1850). While it represents an impressive undertaking in terms of property survey, Griffith's Valuation is also an important record of valuable social and economic data. For those seeking information on their Irish ancestors, it provides more than just names and locations of residences. Griffith's Valuation is, effectively, the only detailed guide to where in Ireland people lived in the mid-nineteenth century and what property they possessed or on which property they lived. In addition to providing the name of the householder, Griffith's Valuation provides a map reference number to help you identify and perhaps locate property. provides more than just names and locations of residences. Griffith's Valuation is, effectively, the only detailed guide to where in Ireland people lived in the mid-nineteenth century and what property they possessed.

Few other records can be used to identify an immigrant ancestor's exact place of origin, and Griffith's Valuation links an individual to a specific townland and civil parish. This information is of extreme importance since the first step in Irish genealogical research is to identify an ancestor's townland and civil parish. This information can lead you to ecclesiastical parish records of births and marriages.

Family Archive CD 188 Allows for Faster Searching of Griffith's Valuation

Family Archive CD 188 contains the Index of Surnames of Householders in Griffith's Primary Valuation. You can obtain general information about an individual from it, including the county, parish, and location in which the individual resided at the time of the valuation. For some individuals, you may also discover information such as occupation or family trade, the name of the family dwelling, skills associated with the individual, religious affiliation, or physical or moral characteristics of the individual or that person's ancestors. In some instances, you may also learn that the property was owned by more than one individual or that an individual was associated with more than one piece of property.

Once you find your ancestor in this Family Archive, it is easy to find additional information about that person in a microfilm or microfiche copy of Griffith's Valuation. Apart from the townland and householder's name, you may also determine the following information about your ancestor from a copy of the original valuation: name of the person from whom the property was leased, description of property, acreage, and valuation.

The index included in Family Archive 188 was generated from the microfiche version of the Griffith's Valuation. It may be easier for you to use the microfiche version of Griffith's Valuation since each microfiche is numbered and organized by county and includes a list of all of the parishes within that county. If you are using this Family Archive and referencing the microfilm version of Griffith's Valuation, it will be necessary for you determine which microfilm roll your ancestor's parish is on. Resources at places such as the Family History Library or its centers can help you determine this information.

Now that you have an idea of what Griffith's Valuation is all about, take a look at the case study below. It will help you understand how you might use Griffith's Valuation in your research. (The above portion of this article was written with assistance from William O'Kane, Publications Officer at Heritage World Family History Services and Mike Tepper at Genealogical Publishing Company.)


A Case Study Using the Index of Surnames of Householders in Griffith's Primary Valuation
by Lyman Platt, Ph.D.

There are actually two parts to what is commonly called the Householders Index. These consist of: 1) the Tithe Applotment Books, and 2) the Index of Surnames of Householders in Griffith's Primary Valuation. As mentioned above, Family Archive CD 188 contains the second part -- the Index of Surnames of Householders in Griffith's Primary Valuation. The Tithe Applotment Books cover the period of 1820-1840 while the Index of Surnames covers the period of 1840-1864. This twenty-four year period of time is a small window into the past, but when you consider that persons taxed in that twenty-four year period were born between about 1760 and 1820, it is a key period for Irish research.

To give you an idea of how you might use Griffith's Valuation, we will use the research case study of Patrick McCann who was married to Ellen Donnelley or Donnelly. Patrick's son Frank or Francis McCann is believed to have arrived in the Americas through Canada, without his spouse. He apparently arrived in the period of 1878 to 1886. There is evidence of four offspring: John McCann, Terrence McCann, Jeanette McCann, and Catherine McCann. Frank McCann was born about 1827 somewhere in the neighborhood of County Armagh or County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He died in December 1890 in Buffalo, New York. The family were Roman Catholics.

This case study will give you an idea of how you might use Griffith's Valuation in your research.

A review of the Index of Surnames of Householders in Griffith's Primary Valuation as contained on CD 188 shows 102 incidences of Patrick McCann born in Northern Ireland and eight incidences of Ellen Donnelly. As this is an index of tax records, giving heads of household only, it isn't likely that both persons appear in the index, but knowing the locations of the Donnelly individuals may be helpful in narrowing down which of the 102 Patrick McCanns is the correct one.

The Patrick McCann we are searching for fits into the Griffith's Valuation time period nicely. If his son Frank or Francis McCann was born about 1827, we can estimate that Patrick was born about 1800. He would be between about forty and sixty-four during the taxation period in question, and if he was a head of household and owned land or leased taxable property, he is one of the 102 Patricks listed. It is possible that he did not own or lease land, or that an error exists in the index, but the probability is that he is listed. The question remains to narrow the search from 102 to a smaller list of the best candidates. This is where the Donnelley listings come in handy.

The main Donnelly listings are for families in counties Antrim, Armagh, Fermanagh, and Tyrone. The family descended from Patrick and Ellen believes that County Armagh is where their ancestors came from, but they say they also may have come from County Tyrone. The Donnelly entries in Armagh are in Loughgall. In Tyrone they are in Clogher, Donacavey, and Drumglass. The Patrick McCann entries that approximate the Donnelley entries are four in Clogher. One is for Altnaveagh, Clogher; one is for Annaloughan, Clogher; one is for Corkhill, Clogher; and one is for Corkhill Desmesne, Clogher. With these four entries narrowed down as the most likely candidates, based on the minimal information available, the next steps include looking at the original index.

My local family history center of the Family History Library in Salt Lake City (there are 3,300 family history centers worldwide) has Griffith's Valuation on microfilm instead of microfiche, twenty-two rolls in all. They are arranged by county and then by union and barony. A handout at the family history center titled "Resource Guide to Ireland Householder's Index" walked me through the process of how to use the collection. When I determined the microfilm roll number I found that all four of these Patrick McCann entries are within the barony and parish of Clogher. When I located these entries on the microfilm, I found the following information for each one: the names, whether or not they are leasing or own the property, a description of the tenement (land and house, land [bog], etc.), the amount of property involved, the rateable annual valuation for both land and buildings, and the total annual valuation of rateable property.

A handout at the family history center walked me through the process of how to use the collection..

This information didn't further help me identify which of the four Patrick McCann entries might be the correct one. However, I at least know in which parish these four individuals lived so I know where to look up other records for them, which will hopefully give me more information. I started out with a list of 102 Patrick McCann entries and by making logical guesses, narrowed that list down to four. It may turn out that none of these four are the correct Patrick McCann, but I'd much rather start out by researching just these four rather than the entire list of 102!

Further research in local parish, cemetery, newspaper, census, and other vital and genealogical records may or may not prove the connection, but this is the process to follow until the evidence falls in favor or against these four Patricks. At some point in all of this research effort, one of these Patrick McCann entries will likely come to the fore as the most viable candidate. If a will can be found tying the family across the ocean, the proof is absolute, as also would a marriage record of the Donnelly/Patrick couple. As with all research, the process is fascinating and time-consuming.

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