More maps than you can shake a stick at

Like everyone involved in Irish genealogy and local history, I spend a lot of time looking at Griffith’s Valuation on askaboutireland.ie. Griffith’s is the only Ireland-wide census substitute for the mid nineteenth century and the site is wonderful, not least because it is free.

One feature, though, has caused much grief to users over the years, the mismatch between the printed records and the maps that accompany and supposedly illustrate them. The maps used on the site date from several decades after the publication of the Valuation, and so can differ starkly from the printed original.

More than 20 years after the published Valuation

The reason is that Griffith’s was a live property tax survey. So for a century and a half the Valuation Office had to record changes in occupier, holding size, lessor – anything that could affect the value of a holding and thus the tax to be paid on it. Handwritten, copybook-style versions of the original were used to list the changes, which were then hand-marked on the Office’s own copies of the six-inch Ordnance Survey maps.

The wonderful little slider

The main maps used by askaboutireland consist of one full baseline set of these map revisions, dating from the late 1870s, more than two decades after the publication of the books. It has to be said that the mismatch between printed books and maps is more than made up for by the layering of the maps over contemporary Google maps and satellite images.  Their wonderful little slider makes it possible to move back and forth between the 1870s and today, with detail right down to the level of individual fields and streets. Many users find themselves entranced: “What, 4 a.m. already?”

But these are not the only maps on the site. Every single working revision map from the Valuation Office (Republic of Ireland ony) now appears to be there, layered one over the other, with up to eight separate maps for some areas. And no way of telling which follows which.

How to use them? When the full handwritten revision books eventually become available online, it may be possible to date the maps by comparing them with the written records, though most of the VO maps lack the lot outlines of the main series that would make such connections possible.

Be reassured: it’s not just you. Everyone is floundering.

Ballina on the VO five-foot map

For the moment, by far the most useful of these are the VO town plans. These are part of a series of more than 1400 maps drawn up by the Ordnance Survey specifically for Griffith, at the phenomenal scale of five feet to the mile, ten times more detailed than the OS main series. Though also undated, they do include lot and house numbers, making it possible to follow the fate of every building in every street.  They should be top of every Irish local historian’s to-do list.

Ballina on the OS six-inch

18 thoughts on “More maps than you can shake a stick at”

  1. Thank for yet another very interesting post. Unfortunately there do not seem to be multiple maps for all areas. The areas in Antrim I searched still only have a single version. Areas in Galway, by contrast, had five.

  2. Where would I get the map of local government wards for Enniskillen Urban Council area around 1920 ….it was made up of three wards as far as I know ….North, South and East. ….

    1. Hello, my name is Jerry (Gerald) Quinn. We have been searching for our Irish ancestors for over 40 years, including several trips to Ireland, with no success as of yet. My Great Grandfather, Michael, left Ireland in 1847 along with his brother Patrick and several family members. They came into Philadelphia and settled in Wilmington, Delaware ever since. Michael and his wife, Mary Teresa O’Toole, were born in Laois and Offaly and we have found some birth/baptismal certificates in the Church in Tubber, just north of Tullamore. We believe that the Quinn’s moved over toward Athlone sometime after 1847.
      Might your Quinn ancestors be related to us?

    2. Hello, my name is Jerry (Gerald) Quinn. My sister and I have been trying to locate our Irish ancestors for over 40 years with no success so far, including several trips to Ireland to search.
      My Great Grandfather, Michael Quinn, came over in 1847 along with his brother Patrick and several other relatives. They came to Philadelphia in settled in Wilmington, Delaware ever since. Michael was listed as a “Morocco”(leather worker) in the shipyards of Holllings & Holliworth in Wilmington. Michael’s wife was Mary Teresa O’Toole and they were from Laois and Offaly. WE have found some baptismal/birth records in Tubbor, just north of Tullamore.
      Might your Quinn’s be related to ours? Any ideas for our search?

      1. Hi Jerry. My wife’s great grandfather was a Michael Quinn from Quarrymount, Co Laois. Born 1848. However he remained in Ireland. His father was John Quin=Cath Carroll but I don’t know any further back. Drop me an email for a chat. Martin

  3. Good to know we are all floundering together. How should I read the numbers when it has two numbers to look at on the map? For example there are plots outlined in red that have numbers in them and then there’s other little numbers in black and white print? And there are small letters as well sometimes? Which are which? Thanks!

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