Ireland Taxation (Cess) and impact on Irish People – A brief History

Amazingly the term “…death or taxes…” is true in Ireland as escaping either was impossible. Indeed, many of the records we have today of Irish Population are in fact tax records, and if familar with the records available for searching One’s Ancestors, you will notice they are mainly, with the exception of the Census, tax records ! Amazing isn’t it?


Hearth Tax


Initiated in 1662, the Hearth Tax was collected and recorded on Hearth Money Rolls within the Court of the Exchequer. They were collected throughout the decade of the 1660’s as a result of the Hearth Money Act of 1662 and additional amending legislation. The basis for the tax was the number of hearths in each household, therefore they cross the economic social classes. This tax led to the open hearth architecture in Irish cottages where there was intentionally no hearth built and the fire was placed on the floor directly below the chimney.


The tithe was a land-based tax exacted from rural Ireland between 1823 and 1837. The tax did not apply to inhabitants of the cities or larger towns. Though taken from people of all faiths, the tithe was used to support the Church of Ireland in rural areas. Tithe Applotment books record the name of the head of the household and the value of the property. Many “defaulted’ or refused to pay for a tax to support the or a, Church, they did not attend and did not want to attend, thus the term “Tithe Defaulters” mainly Catholic.


Griffith’s Primary Valuation


Between 1848 and 1864, a valuation, called Griffith’s Primary Valuation, was made of taxable property in every parish in Ireland. The valuation records list the name of the head of the household, the name of the landowner (‘immediate lessor’), the acreage of the plot, the value of the property, and the amount of tax assessed. The tax based on the property valuation was used to support the poor.


Valuation Books


After the primary valuation, later valuations were made throughout Ireland approximately every decade. Changes in ownership or tenancy as well as the types of information recorded in the original valuation (name of the head of the household, name of the landowner, acreage, and property value) were noted in the valuation books.

Valuation Revision books have been digitized and images are now available online for free



Further Information

For more information on Tithe Applotment records, Griffith’s Primary Valuation, and other valuation sources, see:

  • Grenham, John. Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: The Complete Guide. 3rd ed. Dublin, Ireland: Gill and Macmillan, 2006. (FHL book Ref 941.5 D27gj 2006.)
  • McCarthy, Tony. “Twelve Major Sources.” The Irish Roots Guide. Dublin, Ireland: Lilliput Press, 1991. (FHL book 941.5 D27mt.)

For more information about Irish taxes and surviving tax records, see:

  • Falley, Margaret Dickson. Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research. 2 vols. Evanston, Illinois: Margaret Dickson Falley, 1961-62. (FHL book Ref 941.5 D27f, 2 vols.)

The Family History Library’s copies of Tithe Applotment books and Griffith’s Primary Valuation are listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


Other valuation records are listed in the Place Search under:


The library’s other taxation records are listed in the Place Search under the following headings:



The following work was compiled by the staff at the National Library in Dublin, Ireland, and is available at the Family History Library. Arranged by county, this index lists surnames found in the Tithe Applotment Records and in Griffith’s Valuation:

  • An Index of Surnames of Householders in Griffith’s Primary Valuation and Tithe Applotment Books.14 vols. Typescript. Dublin, Ireland: National Library, 1960-70. (FHL book Ref 941.5 R22i, 14 vols.; film 919,001-7.) This work is often referred to as the Householders Index.

A brief aid produced by the Family History Library, The Ireland Householders Index (item 34070), contains step-by-step instructions on how to use the Householders Index and its corresponding records at the library. This aid is available at the library and through Family History Centers.

The Irish Land Commission (dissolved in 1992) produced an index to the Tithe Applotment records for the counties in Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland, Public Record Office, Land Commission Archive index. This index is listed in the Place Search of the FamilySearch Catalog under:


Several indexes, by full name, to the Griffith’s Primary Valuation records for specific counties have also been compiled and are available on microfiche at the Family History Library. These indexes cannot be circulated to Family History Centers. The indexes are listed in the Place Search of the catalog under:


Web Sites

Tithe Applotment Books:

Griffith’s Primary Valuation: