• -
  • irishtimes.com - Posted: December 30, 2013 @ 12:02 pm

    Valuation Office records: how it should be

    John Grenham

    When the United Kingdom suffered the serious amputation of 1922, some very practical issues faced public administrators in the statelets North and South of the new border. Tax, as ever, was top of the list.

    The “rates”, the local property tax based originally on Griffith’s Valuation, was the main source of income for county councils, and its workings depended on continual revisions of property values, carried out locally and recorded centrally by the Valuation Office in Dublin. So for local authorities in the fledgling Northern Ireland, their very existence depended on access to these Valuation Office records. And this access was duly provided by their Southern colleagues, by the simple method of handing over the entire collection of records relating to the six counties, going right back to the 1850s and 1860s.

    For those of us in the South trying to research areas now in Northern Ireland, this has long been a nuisance: Valuation Office records are one of a tiny number of invaluable sources that provide a record of long-term change rather than just a snapshot of an instant, and one of the best ways of connecting with living relatives.

    A nuisance no more. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland has created high-quality images of every single page of the 3,900 revision books it holds, transcribed all the place names, recorded in them to a searchable database, and made the whole thing freely available on proni.gov.uk.

    Unlike in the South, a complete re-valuation of the entire six counties took place in 1935, so the PRONI copies of Valuation Office revisions stop just before that year, making them a bit less useful in tracking living connections.

    But what they’ve done is still wonderful. We can only hope that, as with the General Register of Northern Ireland, the example of the North might shame us into action.