Getting into Griffith’s

By Rick Crume Premium

Tracking down your Irish ancestors can be difficult, given the devastating loss of the 1821 through 1851 census returns in the 1922 Dublin Four Courts fire. Fortunately, Griffith’s Valuation of Rateable Property (commonly called “Griffith’s Primary Valuation”) can act as a “census substitute.” Published between 1847 and 1864, Griffith’s Valuation is not only the first systematic valuation of property holdings in Ireland, but also the most important resource for locating mid-19th-century Irish residents. Now, you can access a fully indexed online version through a subscription to Irish Origins <>.

Though not the first online version of Griffith’s Valuation, Irish Origins’ database is easy to search and lets you view digital images of the original volumes, including revisions and amendments. The database — produced by in partnership with Irish genealogical publisher Eneclann <> and the National Library of Ireland <>- includes more than 1 million names of landowners, landlords and renters.

You can search all Irish Origins’ databases at once, but if you search just Griffith’s Valuation, you have more options to refine your search. A basic search lets you scan records by landowner, renter or place (including villages and street names). Using the advanced search, you can limit the results by administrative divisions such as county, barony, union and townland.

All Irish Origins searches use NameX, a name-matching technology that finds more plausible matches and fewer false hits than the Soundex system. And unlike Soundex, NameX works with first names, too. For example, if you search on Margaret, NameX will find Maggie, Marg’t, Marg, Mgt and Peggy, as well.

Each match in Griffith’s Valuation has two buttons. Click on the Details button to view a summary of the reference, and on the Images button to view an image of the original page. You may need to download a free utility to display the image.

A search for Thomas McMorris locates one match in Griffith’s Valuation. Clicking on the Details button reveals when this edition was published (Nov. 22, 1858) and location details (townland of Coolmaghery, parish of Donaghedy, barony of Lower Strabane, poor law union of Strabane, County Tyrone).

Clicking on the Images button shows that Thomas McMorris leased a house, an “office” (a separate or attached building servicing the house) and land from the Marquis of Abercorn. The property covered 42 statute acres, 1 rood and J 0 perches (click on Help & Resources for definitions of these terms). The column for Rateable Annual Valuation shows that, for purposes of taxation, Thomas McMorris’s land was valued at 2 pounds and 5 shillings, and the buildings at 15 shillings. Help & Resources tells you how to calculate their current value.

Griffith’s Valuation lists only heads of household, but it holds clues that can lead you to other records. For instance, Thomas McMorris’s neighbors might have been relatives. The next occupier on the list, James McMorris, leased property from Thomas and might have been his son. And now that I know where Thomas lived, I can seek out records for that place.

So how does Irish Origins’ online version of Griffith’s Valuation stack up to its competitor? It’s much more efficient than’s <> database, available through the International & Passenger Records subscription. That database doesn’t offer digital images of the original documents, and many names were incorrectly transcribed or left out.

Irish Origins plans to put more databases online soon. An index to Irish wills from 1484 to 1858 will list more than 100,000 names. Another database, the William Smith O’Brien Petition (1848-1849), lists the names of 80,000 people who petitioned to gain clemency for the Irish rebel leader sentenced to death. Entries include the signers’ names, addresses and occupations.

Irish Origins’ new pricing plan gives you unlimited usage during your subscription period, so you no longer need to worry about using up credits. Subscriptions cost $5.95 for 72 hours, $14.95 for a month, $23.95 for a quarter or $42.95 for a year.

From the February 2004 Family Tree Magazine