7. Griffith's Valuation: Census Substitutes for the 19th Century

In the absence of census records pre-1901, Griffith’s Valuation is an invaluable source for family historians.  Also known as the Primary Valuation of Tenements, it was a survey carried out by Sir Richard Griffith to find out the amount of tax each tenant should pay to help provide for the poor as set out in the legislation drawn up for the creation of Poor Law Unions.  The valuation was based on the administration unit of the townland and a rate was levied on each individual property in the area.  The results of this countrywide survey were published between 1848 and 1865.

Administrative Divisions

The valuation was sometimes carried out by Barony, sometimes by Union.  All civil parishes and townlands in an area were listed alphabetically.  Ordnance Survey maps were also produced to complement the information on each townland.  These were inserted into the valuation to accompany the statistics given.  Townlands were divided into ‘Lots’.

Information Listed

For each lot the survey lists the occupier, the immediate lessor (who was not always the owner of a property), the nature of the holding, the extent of the holding and the valuation placed on it at the time.  The term “office” in the description of the property referred to barns, sheds or outhouses.  There is also a map reference number relating to the location of each property holding as marked on the accompanying Ordnance Survey maps.

Extract from Griffith’s Valuation: Kilcoole Village (1852): Shows name of tenant, landlord, type, extent and valuation of property

The Valuation Office

Apart from the original valuation records, the Valuation Office also holds accompanying records which provide more detail than the original survey.  For instance, the “Cancelled Land Books” document changes to landholdings after the original valuation.

Available online:

The printed Griffith’s Valuation is freely available on the An Chomhairle Leabharlanna (Library Council) website askaboutireland.ie and in the digitised collections of the National Archives of Ireland site.  The slightly earlier manuscript versions, which sometimes differ from the printed records, can be found on the National Archives of Ireland website.

Searching Griffith’s Valuation

For more popular surnames, you may need to search by surname and parish.  Please note the valuation records are generally organised by civil parish, then townland.  See our article Administrative Divisions in 19th Century Ireland for lists of County Wicklow civil parishes and their corresponding Roman Catholic parishes.  You can also check which civil parish your townland is located in on the website Seanruad.

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