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Townlands - Notes on the Sources

[Hearth Money Rolls] [Census of Creggan] [Tithe Applotment Books] [The Townland Valuation] [Griffiths Valuation] [First NI General Revaluation] [Subsequent Valuations] [Census Returns]

Hearth Money Rolls 1662-66

These Rolls relate to a controversial tax which has lived long in the memory of Irish people. In an effort to raise finance, the government levied a tax of two shillings on every hearth or fireplace in a house. The Rolls include the name and address of the householder, the number of hearths in each house

In 1662, the Irish Parliament declared that

"From and after the twenty-ninth day of September, in the year of our Lord God one thousand six hundred and sixty two, every dwelling and other house and edifice that are or hereafter shall be erected within this Kingdom of Ireland,... shall be chargeable ... and are charged ... for every firehearth, and other place used for firing and stove within every such house and edifice as aforesaid, the sum of two shillings, sterl., by the year, to be paid yearly and every year at the feast of the annunciation of the Blessed Virgin St. Mary, and the feast St. Michael the Archangel, be even and equal portions."

An amending Act of 1665 brought more people within the scope of the tax and changed the payment arrangement to a single moiety payable in January.

The tax was to be paid by the tenants, not the landlords. Lists, of those required to pay, were made by county, barony, parish and townland.

The original documents were destroyed in 1922.

Census of Creggan 1766

This census was compiled by the Rector of Creggan, probably from the Parochial Tythes Book. It differentiates between Protestants and Papists. The informnation is arranged by townland with the exception of those in County Louth which are grouped under the designation of "The five towns". This census is the the base from which patterns of names begin to reappear in later publications.

The originals of the census were destroyed in the Four Courts fire of 1922.

Tithe Applotment Books

The tithe system designated one-tenth of the produce of the land for the upkeep of the clergy of the Established Church - The Church of Ireland. The Tithe Applotment Act of 1823 specified that the tithes should be paid in cash. Each rector arranged for a valuation of his parish to determine how much would be payable by each landholder. The valuation of Creggan Parish was completed in 1827 and the Surveyors presented the results with the following preface-

"An Assessment of the sum of 1050 sterling, on the different landholders in the Parish of Creggan in the Counties of Armagh and Louth in the Diocese of Armagh by Messrs Joseph Donaldson and Robert Dickie the Commissioners appointed by the Rev. D. Atcheson the Rector and Landholder of said Parish by 4th Geo 4th Cap 99 to continue for 21 years from 1 November 1827."

The Tithe Applotment Books are a valuable record of land occupation twenty years before the Famine devastated the country and led to mass emigration. They are not a list of householders - for example, labourers and weavers were omitted as were all urban dwellers. Information recorded was as follows -
name of the occupier
name of the townland
classification of land (4 classes)
amount of the tithe
areas not subject to the tithe
landlords' names

The tithe system disappeared with the dis-establishment of the Church in 1871. However, the tithe itself survived under different names, payable to the government, for many years.

The Townland Valuation 1828-1840

This was primarily a valuation of land. However it included houses of a certain value, initally those with an annual value of 3 or more, increased to 5 from 1838. The records include the names of such householders with descriptions of the buildings. The valuation of the townlands of Creggan was completed between January and May 1837 and mainly limits house valuations to those worth 5 a year or more. There are are some exceptions to this in Crossmaglen.

Griffiths Valuation 1848-64

The Primary Valuation of Ireland, 1848-1864, better known as Griffith's Valuation, covered the occupiers of all land, tenements and houses. It was used to determine the amount of tax each able-bodied person should pay towards the upkeep of the workhouses which were located in the local market towns. It is arranged by county, Poor Law Union and parish. It includes the following information -
townland address
householder's name
name of the person from whom the property was leased
description of the property
In some instances people with the same name are given their local nicknames or trade to differentiate them. The valuation maps are arranged by county and there are also town plans.

The townlands of Creggan Parish were surveyed in two tranches. The first, completed in 1854, dealt those townlands in the area of the Dundalk Poor Law Union that were in County Armagh. The rest of the parish was covered in the 1864 Valuation.

First Northern Ireland General Revaluation 1935

The first revaluation undertaken by the Government of Northern Ireland came into force on 1 January 1936.

Subsequent Valutations

There were full valuations carried out in 1957 and 1975. Unfortunately for this study of townland populations, 1957 was the last time that townlands were used for this purpose. The 1975 Valuation used the new Post Office road numbering system and the record of townland continuity and change has been lost forever. This vandalism uses the name of efficiency as its excuse.

Census Returns

Organised census in Ireland started 1821 and have continued, with a few exceptions, every ten years. Unfortunately the records for the period 1861 to 1891 were pulped on government orders during the First World War. Nothing survives for the Northern Ireland area. Most of the rest were destroyed by fire during the Irish Civil War. A few remnants remain of the 1821 - 1851 censuses, but that of 1901 is the earliest and most complete census of Ireland that survives. The reports of the Censuses from 1841 to 1951, with information about occupied and unoccupies houses, males and females enumerated, by townland etc are available.

The 1901 Census records for Northern Ireland are available on microfilm in the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI). The National Archives of Ireland (NAI)(Bishop Street, Dublin) hold the original census returns for both 1901 and 1911 but the 1911 census is not available in PRONI. NAI also hold the original fragments of the 19th century census returns.

The returns are arranged by townland or, in urban areas, by street. The returns for each townland or street consist of:

  • Forms (Forms A) filled in by the head of each household, giving the names of all people in that household on census night and their age, occupation, religion and county or country of birth.
  • Forms (Forms N, B1, B2) filled in by the official taking the census, summarising the returns for that townland or street.

The 1911 returns have details of length of marriage, total children of the marriage born alive and the number surviving.

For those using the Census forms to work out possible dates of birth, a word of warning is necessary. Generally, the quoted ages are not trustworthy, especially in the case of the 1901 Census. In many cases they are years out. The 1911 Census information is more reliable, though still not entirely accurate..

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Last Updated on 11 October 2004
© Patrick Devlin 2004
Email: pdevlinz@btinternet.com