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Tithe Applotment Books of Ireland, 1823-1838

    Tithe Applotment Books of Ireland, 1823-1838
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About the Data
The Tithe Applotment Books record the results of a unique land survey taken to determine the amount of tax payable by landholders to the Church of Ireland. They are known as the Tithe Applotment Books because the results of this land survey were originally compiled in nearly 2,000 hand-written books. This data set represents a virtual census for pre-Famine Ireland.

In the original enumeration, each landholder was recorded along with details such as townland, size of holding, land quality and types of crops. The amount of tithe payable by each landholder was based on all of these factors and calculated by a formula using the average price of wheat and oats from 1816-23. Information from the Tithe Books has been extracted and the names have been indexed in this data set. If you find an ancestor among the nearly 200,000 listed, you will learn the following:

  • Name
  • County
  • Parish
  • Townland
  • Year of enumeration

More About This Data Set

In family history research three basic factors dictate how easily and how far ancestors can be traced. Assuming that records are available, these factors are name, place and date. These can be fairly approximate, but obviously the more specific these details, the better are the chances of success. Genealogists make use of any and all sources of information that contain peoples' names, the names of places they lived and the date(s) the information was compiled.

Obvious examples are church and civil registers of birth, marriage and death, but there are other sources, some of which are effectively lists. These include muster rolls, shipping lists, census returns and land valuations.

Importance of Land Surveys in Genealogy
The best-known land record is the Primary Valuation of Ireland (1848-1864). This survey has assumed the significance of a national census given that data from the 1851 census does not survive. Also of great value to family history researchers are the Tithe Applotment Books. These span the period 1823-1838, so going back at least a generation earlier than the Griffith Valuation. Both surveys pre-date general civil registration (1864), and since they cover all Ireland are immensely important in terms of constructing, not just an image of a particular family line, but of wider social conditions in the country.

The Reason for the Tithe Survey
Both the Griffith and Tithe surveys were compiled for monetary reasons — to calculate the amount of tax payable by the landholders of Ireland. In the case of the Tithe Applotment Books, the money so raised was for the upkeep of the Church of Ireland, the established church until 1869. The word tithe comes from the Latin for a tenth part, and refers to the custom of paying a tenth of one's earnings to the church. Originally this offering was in kind, but as money increasingly became the determinant of social and economic dealings, the tithe came to be paid similarly. Following the Composition Act of 1823, which decreed that tithes be paid in money, a valuation survey was carried out of each civil parish in Ireland to determine how much each landholder should pay. Over the next fifteen years this survey listed all landholders in a parish — although, as we shall see, not every parish was in fact covered.

Assessing the Tithe
The survey was conducted by those who stood to gain from tithes, namely personnel of the Church of Ireland, usually members of the select vestry or apploters appointed by them 'to regulate and sub-divide'. The applotment enumerated each landholder in a parish, with details such as name of townland, size of holding, land-quality and types of crops. The amount of tithe payable by each landholder was based on all of these factors and calculated by a formula using the average price of wheat and oats from 1816-23. Most parishes had at least one tithe survey during from 1820-38 while some had two. The results of each were carefully laid out in a large book prepared for the purpose, hence the title by which this archive is known to genealogists — the Tithe Applotment Books. Some parts of the country were exempt from paying tithe, among them glebe lands (land occupied by established clergymen), granges (land which in pre-Reformation times had belonged to a monastery) and all towns.

Opposition to Tithes
All this was eminently logical and scientific except for one rather serious snag; the tithe was to be paid by everyone, not just members of the Church of Ireland. Therefore, it was deeply unpopular with Catholics and Presbyterians who had their own clergy and who resented having to support a rival denomination whose members enjoyed more social and economic privileges than they. Furthermore, Catholics and Presbyterians between them outnumbered the established church, the latter being the preserve of those with social and political power. Not surprisingly there were instances of violent resistance, and numerous outbreaks of agrarian unrest in the 1830s were dubbed the 'tithe war'.

The End of Tithes
Tithes were payable directly to the Protestant minister, but collection was often difficult as people held out against the indignity and the financial burden. It should be remembered that all landholders had to pay tithe, and the majority of these were impoverished tenants already faced with heavy rents payable to their landlord. From 1838 on, the tithe was amalgamated with the land-rent and collected by landlords, who then passed on the church's share. This had the double effect of removing the trouble of collection from ministers and also of making payment more likely, given that non-payment of dues to the landlord could lead to eviction. Resentment against tithes festered as one of the ills associated with Ireland's ramshackle landlord system until the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1869. Thereafter this denomination had to raise its own finance in the manner of other churches.

In total the Tithe Applotment Books comprise some 2,000 hand-written volumes of varying degrees of legibility. Even allowing for the exemption of town-dwellers and landless labourers from the survey, it still constitutes the nearest to a census of pre-Famine Ireland that we have - especially in light of the absence of formal census data from this period. As mentioned above, however, it is not comprehensive and some parts of the country were not surveyed. It should not be assumed that these 'exceptions' from the tithe survey were due to parishes being overlooked since there are usually explanations as to why they were tithe-free. In some cases there are no tithe books because a certain parish did not exist, or was part of another parish, at the time of the survey. There were also some parishes outside parochial jurisdiction, such as the above-mentioned granges, while glebe lands and all towns were also exempt. Details of exceptions are provided below.

Multiple Surveys
Some parishes were surveyed twice, sometimes in the same year but mostly several years apart. (A small number may have had three or even four surveys) In compiling the present index all surveys have been included. Therefore, for instance, John Smith of Kilmore townland, Aghaloo parish, Co Tyrone, may appear in the 1825 and 1837 surveys. In such cases no judgement or conclusion can be offered as to whether both entries refer to the same man.

Using this Data Set
This data set contains an index to the Tithe Applotment Books for the six counties that constitute present-day Northern Ireland — namely Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone. There are in the region of 200,000 entries, containing surname, forename, townland, parish and county, as well as the year of survey. In all, 223 parishes are included. There are several exceptions, for the reasons discussed above. These are as follows for each county:

  • County Antrim Parishes
    • Glynn: names of landowners only
    • Glenwhirry: no agricultural land worth assessing
    • Granges of Ballyscullion, Doagh, Inispollan, Layd, Muckamore: all tithe-free
    • Grange of Drumtullagh: tithe entries in applotment book for Derrykeighan parish
    • Grange of Nilteen: originally included in applotment book for Donegore parish
    • Shankill: tithe applotment entries entered in Belfast parish

  • County Armagh Parishes
    • Armagh: names of leaseholders for five townlands only
    • Kilclooney [Kilcluney]: tithe entries in applotment book for Mullaghbrack parish
    • Kildarton: formed 1840; tithe entries in Armagh, Lisnadill, Loughgall and Mullaghbrack

  • County Derry Parishes
    • Agivey: described as 'extra-parochial'
    • Carrick: formed 1846; tithe entries in Balteagh, Bovevagh and Tamlaght Finlagan parishes
    • Formoyle [Fermoyle]: formed 1843; tithe entries in Dunboe parish
    • Learmount: formed 1831; tithe entries in Banagher, Cumber Upper and Cumber Lower
    • Templemore: tithe entries to be found in Deanery of Derry

  • County Down Parishes
    • Castleboy: tithe-free
    • Holywood: former site of priory, and records show that no tithes were ever taken here
    • Killaney: no tithe applotment book exists
    • Newry: no tithe applotment book exists
    • Warrenpoint: formed 1825; tithe entries found in applotment book for Clonallen parish

  • County Fermanagh Parishes
    • Devenish: tithe survey (1824) gives only townland names and a few large landowners.
    • Clones and Currin: tithe entries in County Monaghan
    • Kinawley and Tomregan: tithe entries in County Cavan
    • Templecarn: tithe entries in County Donegal

  • County Tyrone Parishes
    • Donaghedy [Donagheady]: no tithe applotment book exists
    • Errigal Trough: tithe entries in County Monaghan
    • Urney: tithe entries in County Donegal

This data set was jointly published by Heritage World, the Genealogical Publishing Company and

What You'll Learn About Your Ancestor

Name — In some records, you will find three question marks in place of the given name or surname. This indicates that the name was not listed on the original record. You may also find question marks in place of missing letters.

Occasionally, comments were documented as part of an individual's name in the Tithe Applotment Books. This information has been noted as "Parish Notes." The information may refer to an individual's occupation or family trade, the name of the family dwelling, skills associated with the individual, or titles held by that person. In some instances, you'll learn that property is owned by more than one individual. Joint ownership is indicated by the word "and" followed either by a generic reference to other individuals or a specific name. Names listed that are not followed by the word "and" typically indicate parents' or spouse's names.

Surnames are the most obvious keys for any researcher and you should note that many variants exist of practically every Irish surname. For instance, "O'Neill" may be listed as "ONeill" or "O Neill." Because a surname could be listed a number of different ways, you should search for your ancestors in the Index under more than one spelling. Names with the prefix "Mc" or "Mac" should be searched in the same manner. An Irish surname may change over time and from generation to generation. For this reason, if you were searching for the surname "Donald," you would want to search under "O'Donald," "McDonald," "MacDonald," "M'Donald," etc. This is particularly important if your Irish ancestors later lived in the United States, because in some cases surname prefixes were dropped at the time of immigration.

County — You'll learn the county in which the individual was listed in the Tithe Applotment Books. Please note that this data set cover only the six counties that make up present-day Northern Ireland: Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh, and Tyrone.

Parish — This was the ecclesiastical parish in which the individual was listed.

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