Irish Roots

April 12th, 2010

John Grenham

It is much more difficult to trace a family forward from a specific point than backward, for obvious reasons. The trail of evidence behind us is of what we’ve done, not what we’re going to do. So a marriage record provides fathers’ names that lead back to birth records that supply mothers’ names, which in turn lead back to earlier marriages and so on. A birth record, on the other hand, has no connection forward to later marriage records.

But a lot of the pleasure of family research, especially in such a tribal place as Ireland, comes from illuminating the huge network of 3rd 4th and 5th cousins that surrounds us all. So any set of records that makes it possible to come forward rather than always go back is doubly welcome. The Valuation Office has one such set, not nearly as well known as it should be.

The Office was originally set up to carry out the Primary Valuation (1847-64), which was to remain the basis of local property taxation (“the rates”) until the tax was abolished in 1977. Obviously, any taxation system that lasts 130 years will have undergone constant revision: occupiers move or die, property values change (!), holdings are bought and sold. Over almost a century and a half, the Office has kept hand-written copies of the Valuation into which all changes were carefully inscribed, coded with different coloured inks to mark the year of each change, meticulously connected to large-scale Ordnance Survey maps.

This means that it is possible to follow all changes in status of any holding recorded in the Primary Valuation from the mid-19th century up to the 1970s. Given the profound reluctance in Ireland to treat land as purely commercial, extended family connections are involved in almost all these changes.

The Valuation Office is based in the Irish Life Centre, Abbey Street Lower, Dublin 1. Its website is www.valoff.ie.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.

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