Tuesday 22 June 2021

Ireland's VO Revision Books: one year to full online access?

The Valuation Office released its Annual Review 2020 and Strategic Plan 2021–2023 last month. Having finally got round to reading them, I'm happy to relay some positive news about the s...l...o...w digitisation of the Revision Books, the manuscripts and maps that can serve as census substitutes when hunting down ancestors and family from the mid-19th century to the 1990s. The VO's archive of these Books provide an invaluable resource or genealogical and historical research, especially for rural land and property occupiers.

Download links below

When the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland had the good sense to digitise and place freely online its archive of Revision Books way back in March 2013 (see links below), the Valuation Office in Dublin had barely started its digitisation project. A year later, when Irish Genealogy News first reported on it, there were pdf copies of the books from five counties available to view in the VO's Research Room only.

When I last visited the Research Room, just days before the Covid-19 Lockdown began, the Revision books and associated maps for a total of 19 counties and three cities could be searched electronically there. The areas available were 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.

I was told by VO staff that resource funding to work on the remaining seven counties – Laois, Louth, Longford, Leitrim, Wicklow, Westmeath and Waterford – had just been confirmed. It was, it seemed, full steam ahead... until the Lockdown stole most of the next fourteen months.

So where are we now? Well, the project has funding, it has a name – The Valuation Office Archive Preservation Project – and the doors to the Research Room remain closed. But the Strategic Plan says the organisation will complete the digitisation of and provide online access (my underlining) to its archive of historical valuation records during the period of the Plan: 2021 to 2023.

This statement goes further than any I've previously seen or heard from the Valuation Office. Online access has been muttered as a 'possible' outcome of the digitisation project, but always as a possible add-on to getting the images pdf'd for the benefit of personal visitors and research-by-email customers. Full scale online access such as that available via PRONI's Revision Books database was still wishful thinking back in March 2020. Now it is confirmed, and the funding is in place.

I'd expect the new database to join the Valuation Office's existing Online Services portal. We'll have to see. Wherever it lands, I'm confident it will provide free access to all users.

Timing wise, I would estimate the final push to online access to take a year. Exactly when that year starts is now the issue, with the nation still some way from consigning all Covid-19 restrictions to the bin. We also have to hope the planned merger of the Valuation Office with the Property Registration Authority and Ordnance Survey Ireland into a new Government body called Tailte √Čireann, and the physical relocation to new offices at the Distillers Building, Smithfield, Dublin 7, will not cause any further delay.