Finding Your Irish Ancestors’ Origins with Griffith’s Valuation

Thinking about your Irish roots this St. Patrick’s Day? Wondering about your ancestor’s origins?  Finding a specific Irish place name can sometimes be a difficult task, especially if they came during the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s and 1850s.  Check out the library’s Irish Genealogy Guide and Record Selection Table for research ideas.

Another great resource is called Griffith’s Valuation.  It was a land survey carried out by the Irish government between 1847 and 1864 and it lists the names of property owners, renters, and their places of residence.  Only the landholder or renter will be named, not the entire family, and tenements were not included. If the matriarch and patriarch of your family were married in Ireland and then immigrated to the United States, the valuation could prove useful.  That is because the Irish often married those who lived near them in order to keep their land in the family.  Griffith’s Valuation can be found in Ancestry Library Edition (ALE), a genealogy database available at any Buffalo & Erie County Public Library location.

If you would like to try out the Griffith’s Valuation, follow the search described in this brief case study:

Case Study – Finding the Irish town of origin for the Daniel Feeney and Margaret McDonough family

Background information:

Margaret McDonough who was born about 1832 in Ireland, married Daniel Feeney and he died in Ireland before 1860.  Their children were Patrick (b. 1851) and William (b. 1853).  In about 1860, she married Martin Hynes (b. 1830) in Ireland and their family moved to Buffalo by 1870.  Margaret and Martin’s children were Coleman (b. 1860) and Bartley (b. 1862), and they were both born in Ireland.

A thorough search of U.S. records was performed for all of the immigrants and their children including church records, naturalization records, passenger lists, vital records, census records, cemetery records, gravestones, military records, and obituaries.  Bartley Hynes’s obituary was the only source which listed a smaller than country level of location.  It stated that Bartley was born in Galway County Ireland.

Next, the Surname Cross-Reference database was searched on the SWilson website.  The database is a compilation of the names listed in the Griffith’s Valuation.  It allows you to input two surnames to see what Irish counties and civil parishes include both surnames, as well as how many times the surnames appear in each location. Searches were performed for the following name combinations: McDonough and Feeney, McDonough and Hynes, and Feeney and Hynes.  The first and second searches both produced the same parish locations, Kilcummin and Rahoon in the county of Galway.  The combination of Feeney and Hynes returned numerous results including Rahoon and Kilcummin.

Next, the Griffith’s Valuation was searched using the database Ancestry Library Edition (ALE).  ALE is available for use at any Buffalo & Erie County Library location.  You can use ALE’s card catalog (which is under the Search menu) to find the valuation in ALE.  Since it appeared that Margaret did not marry Martin until about 1860 and the valuation was conducted from 1847-1864, the surname Feeney and the location Rahoon, Galway, Ireland was searched in Griffith’s Valuation.  About 1300 results were found.  To narrow the results, the search was limited to Galway County and about 300 hits were returned.

Unfortunately, limiting to a parish (Rahoon) does not seem to work in ALE, so other search combinations were tried.  A search for the surname Hynes produced over a thousand results and searching with McDonough limited to the county Galway, produced no results (remember, no database is perfect).  To narrow things down, a search for Daniel Feeney, was performed in the hopes that the valuation covered the Feeneys’ residence while Daniel was still alive.  Three Daniel Feeneys resulted at the top of the hits list.  The second entry, which was for the townland of Knock was selected.  That record showed two land areas, one in Knock and one in Maumeen, which included all three surnames, Feeney, Hynes, and McDonough. (photo below)

Griffiths Valuation Feeney Hynes McDonough

Courtesy Ancestry Library Edition

With Knock and Maumeen as promising leads, a search in Irish land records (by a researcher in Ireland) was completed and a transaction was found transferring land from Daniel Feeney to Martin Hynes in the townland of Knock.  Thus, the place of origin of the McDonough, Hynes, and Feeney families was found.

Happy Hunting!

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