Tuesday 28 January 2014

Valuation Office trials Cancelled Books viewer

Valuation Office's Cancelled Revision Books
John Grenham's column in yesterday's Irish Times reminded me that I'd been meaning to follow up a tip about recent developments at the Valuation Office in Dublin (I think the intention may have got pickled in mulled wine and festive spirit last month).

So, without further ado...

The Valuation Office is currently scanning its library of Griffith's Valuation Cancelled/Revision Books. These are the books that recorded all changes to land ownership following Griffith's great land survey in the mid-19th century; as each Revision Book was filled up, it was declared 'Cancelled', and a new Revision Book created in that series. Some of the series continue right up to the year 2000.

So far, the books for counties Mayo, Kerry and Tipperary, plus those for both Dublin City and County, have been scanned. The scans have then been loaded into a trial database that is accessible via a solitary computer terminal at the Valuation Office at the Irish Life Centre, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin. The areas chosen for the trial cover the entire spread of Ireland's landscape from rural settlements and small towns to densely populated urban locations.

Scanning of the remaining counties is ongoing – Counties Limerick and Cork are underway. 

In the meantime, personal researchers to the Valuation Office pay the same fee (€3.80 per Electoral Division) whether looking at the books for their chosen area or browsing through the scans on screen, and they follow the same procedure, too, by identifying the Electoral Division and then selecting from a list of the townlands within that ED. At that point, you start browsing the scans.

Valuation Office - Cancelled Revision Book - scan
The scan quality of the books is very high. They're in colour (one of the most important considerations for copying the Cancelled Books because notations were recorded in different coloured inks according to the year) and have good contrast. I'm told the viewer makes the scan easy to manoeuvre and to zoom into.

To see a sample, taken from the Dublin City, Inns Quay Ward, click the image to the right. On the landing page, click the 'download' arrow (near top left) and either open or save to your computer.

(Irish Genealogy News has been granted permission to publish this image by The Commissioner of Valuation. Do not reproduce it elsewhere.)

It's important to stress that the Valuation Office's new viewer is an early prototype. There is not yet an option to print from the public access terminal, although such a facility will be added when the trial reaches maturity. At that point, a number of terminals may be made accessible to researchers, allowing the old and increasingly fragile Cancelled Books to enter semi-retirement on the shelves. It is also easy to see how the database (or a developed incarnation of it) could ultimately make its way online*. However, there are no dates, firm plans or even official talk of that just yet.

More probable in the immediate future is the introduction of an email delivery service of scanned images, allowing family historians who can't get to Dublin the chance to order jpg versions of townlands they are researching. The launch of such a service is not imminent, however.

Right now, the Valuation Office needs feedback, especially from experienced genealogists who already know their way around the Cancelled Books. So if you're visiting the VO, spare some time to test out the trial viewer and let the staff know your opinion of it.

 * Online access to the Cancelled/Revision Books for the counties of Northern Ireland is already available, free of charge, via PRONI, here