Tuesday 3 March 2020

Final push to scan ROI's Valuation Office Revision Books

Last week I visited the public research room of the Valuation Office (V0) in Dublin to get an update on how their project to digitise the Revision/Cancelled Books is progressing.

Original Revision Books at the VO, Dublin
The Revision Books contain information on all property in the state from the mid-1850s until the early 1990s. They show changes in land and property ownership since Griffith's Primary Valuation of Ireland, and are used by Irish genealogists to trace their ancestors' homes after that period.

It used to be the case that researchers visiting the VO would view and photocopy from the original books. Inevitably, some of the older books were being damaged or becoming worn in this process, so a decision was taken to start digitising them for public viewing and so reduce the wear and tear of the precious originals.

A digitisation project by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland resulted in a free online database of high quality scans of the Revision Books for counties Armagh, Antrim, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone. It went live back in March 2013 and can be viewed and searched here).

In comparison, a similar project in the Republic has been chugging along for seven years. Back in 2014, Irish Genealogy News reported that the books of five counties had been digitised and the images were available to search and browse at the VO's premises (they are not online). By January 2019, the number of completed counties had gone up to 17; and I'm pleased to report that two more have recently been added.

These are the 19 counties (and three cities) now available to personal visitors in the VO: Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork City & County, Donegal, Dublin City & County, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Limerick City & County, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary and Wexford. The two most recent additions are in bold.

It's good there has been some progress, but my goodness, it is slow. This is because no additional resources have been directed to the project; existing staff prepare and scan the books as and when they can.

Today's situation is that the scanning of Revision Books for the outstanding seven counties – Laois, Louth, Longford, Leitrim, Wicklow, Westmeath and Waterford – is about to go out to tender (it may have already done so by the time you read this). If my understanding is correct, this is not a public tender; the scanning will be done in-house, but the tender process is necessary for the VO to get the necessary resources in place.

Assuming no major hitches, the scanning may be finished by the end of the year, and we should allow a little longer for the documents to be available in pdf format for researchers to search on the computer terminals at the VO's Public Office. This time next year seems ETA, subject to all the usual caveats.

The Valuation Office is at the Irish Life Building, Lower Abbey Street, Dublin 1.