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Is Griffith’s more than just names?

   Last week I wrote about getting to the right place to research Griffith’s Valuation.  Some of the frequent comments I get are:  It’s just a list of names; there are so many people of the same name, how can I tell which is mine?

   This week I’ll look at the details of what’s actually in the document.  Remember, this is a tax list, so it names the person responsible for paying the tax.

Griffith's Doagh

Column 1 - No. and Letters of Reference to Map

   This column tells you where to find the property on the Ordnance Survey Maps.  So Mary Martin of Doagh in the parish of Magheracloone in Monaghan leases property #12 and that property consists of three different parts, A, B, C which are different quality fields and therefore taxed differently.  If there are multiple houses on the property (see #13), the main house would be designated with a lower case “a” and other houses or cottages would be designated with the following lower case letters.  

Doagh Map

Column 2 - Townlands and Occupiers

   This is typically where you will find your ancestor…the occupier of the land and therefore the person responsible for paying the tax.  Mary Martin also leases #23.  Is this the same person?  The answer is yes.  How do I know?  There was a rule for identifying people within the same townland.  It was important to know which Mary Martin was responsible…

“When two or more persons in a townland have the same Christian name and surname , it will be necessary to obtain an agnomen.”

                          Richard Griffith and his Valuations of Ireland
James R. Reilly

   An agnomen is a second name, something that would clearly identify the person.  It was added to the name on the list to differentiate people of the same name.  There was no rule as to what the agnomen should be, but it was usually something that the local people recognized.  The one we always hope for is the name of the father in parenthesis after the name.  So Patrick Martin (Pat) would be the one whose father is Pat, as opposed to Patrick Martin (John) whose father was John.  This rule applies only within a townland.  Since we have two Mary Martins listed with no agnomen, they are the same person. Notice on this section of the list we have Felix Martin (Big) and Felix Martin (Little).   This likely indicates the stature of the individuals.  Sometimes it (Red) and (Black) which might indicate hair color.  Jr and Sen are frequently used, but be cautious about assuming that this is father and son…it could just be an older and younger person (perhaps uncle and nephew).  This designation is also used for women and might indicate mother-in-law and daughter-in-law.  Occupations are also sometimes used. Here are some other examples.

Column 3 - Immediate Lessor

   This is the person to whom the Occupier is responsible for paying his rent.  In Doagh, Evelyn P. Shirley was the main land owner.  Many on the list pay their rent directly to Shirley, but notice that some pay to Thomas M’Cabe who likely rents from Shirley and subleases to other individuals.  Thomas Martin leases from Thomas M’Cabe and then subleases to Francis M’Cabe. Sometimes you can hypothesize relationships from the list, but do this with caution, looking for additional documentation to verify.  Is Francis M’Cabe the mother-in-law of Thomas Martin? If you see the words “In Fee” in the Immediate Lessor column, the person in Column 1 owns the land.  If Evelyn Shirley’s home was in the townland, or if he owned a field that he did not lease, you would find him listed as the Occupier and “In Fee” in the Immediate Lessor column.

   Another phrase you might see in either Column 2 or 3 is “Reps of .”  In the example above, you see “Reps of Hugh M’Avoy” and “Reps of Loughlin M’Avoy.” This would indicate that the person was dead and the lease or estate had not been settled.  If you see “In Chancery” there is some sort of legal issue.  You probably want to check the Landed Estate Court Rentals, which I’ll discuss in a future blog.

Column 4 - Description of Tenement 

   This column explains what the taxable property consists of.  One of the most common descriptions is “House, Offices and Land.”  House and land are self-explanatory, but offices?  Not what we first think of as our current meaning.  It simply means any type of out-building on the property such as a shed, stable, cow house, piggery, etc.   Here’s another reason why the second Mary Martin listed above is the same person.  There is no house on the second piece of property, it’s just land.  Our ancestors frequently leased multiple pieces of property, one where they lived, and then an additional piece or two of land for agriculture or pasture use.   If you find a reference with only land, you need to figure out where the person lived.  Are they listed elsewhere in the townland?  If they are not, check the surrounding townlands.  Sometimes  for a person who only land you’ll see an agnomen with the name of the townland where he lived.  It’s always possible that a son with only land still lives with his parents, but typically you’ll want to find a listing that includes a house.

Column 5 - Acres

   This tells you the size of the land holding in Acres, roods and perches.  According to FindMyPast "The dimensions of a rental property are given in Acres, Roods and Perches. A perch measured 30 ¼ square yards, a rood was equal to 40 perches and an acre was equal to 4 roods.”  Looking at the size of your ancestors holding will give you some idea of their social standing.  Another general definition was that a holding of less than five acres was considered a cottier or laborer; a small farmer held property between 5 and 30 acres and those holding over 30 acres were considered a large farmer. 

Columns 6 and 7 - Rateable Annual Taxation

These columns provide the taxable value of the land and buildings. The number is derived from the expected annual rate at which the property can reasonably expect to be let-out or leased.  If you look back at Mary Martin, she had three fields, 8 acres, 4 acres and  1 acre.  If you just round the numbers you can see that the valuation of the “A” field, 8 acres is about £2/acre; the “B” field about £4/acre and the “C” field less than £1/acre.  Fields “B” and “C” have no buildings so are likely agricultural and pasture land.  

Column 8 - Total Annual Valuation of Ratable Property

This is the total of columns 6 and 7.

So, is there more in Griffith’s than just names?  Absolutely!  Here are some strategies for using it.

   • Read it carefully, look for agnomens

   • Identify all of the property your ancestor leased

   • Look for others of the same surname

   • Watch for given names that have passed down

   • Identify the land owner

   • Determine what type of tenant (cottier, small or large)

   • Look at surrounding townlands for relatives

   • Lay out the names on a parish map

   Your next steps are going to be to research forward and back.  Look for church records in the parish where your ancestor lived.  Check IrishAncestors for the availability and timeframes.  Were the people in Griffith’s baptizing children during that time period?  Go forward into civil registration.  I find marriage records especially helpful since they give the father’s name and the townland for the bride and groom.  That will help confirm you have the correct family.  Look for the bride’s family in the same, or surrounding parish.  

   There are more land and tax records to discuss. There are the Revision Books, the manuscripts that continued on from Griffith’s so the government always knew who was responsible for paying the tax. In the Republic some of the records go up to the 1970s (in Northern Ireland they go to 1930).  Estate records may also be available with rent rolls or copies of leases.  Many of the estates were bankrupt after the famine, and so the Landed Estate Court Rentals may list your ancestor as well.  And if you found your ancestor in Griffith’s you’ll want to see if he in the same location during the 1820s and 1830s covered by the Tithe Applotment records…an earlier tax paid to the Church of Ireland.  

   So many records…so little time!

   Happy Hunting!

© Donna M. Moughty 2007- 2018