Wednesday 26 October 2016

The new Townland Valuation Translator breaks the 'code' used by Griffith's surveyors (1824–1856)

Here's something new and different: the

It's been devised by Irish genealogist John Schnelle from Boston, who has combined his interests in maps and the history of rural agriculture with a drive to apply new technology to genealogy research, to unlock the 'code' used by the surveyors in their Field and House books. He aims to translate their findings into digestible information about our ancestors, their land, what they grew, and how they would have worked and managed their land holding, however small.

I checked out how my maternal ancestors near Caher would have fared – the Townland Valuation Translator described their land holding as 'second class wheat land', yielding high quality and quantity of crops with proportionally low investments of time, labour and financial resources.'

By contrast, my paternal ancestors near Clonakilty had a harder time surviving. Their land was 'third class oat land', the 'least valuable class of soil' (which probably explains why they gave up half of it to the sea about 70 years ago!).

The Translator's detailed reports make for interesting reading, not just about what would have been grown and the likely rotation of crops for such a land holding. It also gives an analysis of how my ancestors would have managed and worked their land, whether it was suited to the use of a plough or other tools; how a horse might, or might not, have been loaned occasionally to facilitate the cultivation or harvest; and how the difficulty of working the poorer land might have required community input and a lot of potatoes for dinner! The translator delivers a good spread of detail about how our rural ancestors lived.

The website is still in beta right now, and only the Field Books can be fully interpreted, thus far. Check it out. First up, search for your family in the Valuation Office Books (1824–1856) collection, which is freely available on the National Archives of Ireland's Genealogy website. You'll need to imput some of the information in the books into the Translator search form. Then scroll down the page to read the report.