Beyond the Internet: Week 45 Tithe records and maps

Beyond the Internet

This week I’m writing Week 45 in my Beyond the Internet  series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and this week’s topic is Tithes and Tithe Maps.

Attentive readers will note that I got ahead of myself the other day by posting Week 46….that’s what happens when (1) you get behind and (2) you’re keen to get to the end. There are some overlaps between valuations and tithes in that assessment of land and property was common between the two and was done by an approved assessor and subject to appeal.

So what exactly are Tithes and the Tithe Maps?

Tithes were essentially taxes charged on the value of produce and labour from properties to fund the operation of the parish of the established church. In early years the tithe payments were mainly payable in goods or produce. Such was the scale of the tithe collections that huge tithe barns were sometimes built to store the produce which had been tithed. The National Archives provides a comprehensive and expert guide here.

However over time it became increasingly common for the payment of tithes to be in currency rather than goods, and this became the requirement after the introduction of the UK Tithe Act of 1836. The assessment was undertaken by independent commissioners and resulted in large scale maps and valuations of each person’s property holdings, whether as a tenant or owner.

These documents provide the family historian with the opportunity to learn not only the value of their family’s land (rented or owned, remember) but also its specific location.  They are also important because with the inevitable time lags it enables links between the census, the tithe schedules and maps. and the Ordnance Survey maps.

Tithe Barn, Leigh, Worcestershire, England. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

The Tithe Applotment records in Ireland are even more valuable because in the absence of 19th nominal census data, they provide one of the key ways of tracing family in the pre-Famine era. Unfortunately many families farmed land which was not of sufficient value for them to have to pay the tithes, leaving them hidden from us. The payment of tithes towards the upkeep of the established Church of Ireland certainly caused consternation in Ireland for those Catholics who were liable to pay the tithes.

How can these records help us?

As with valuations from Week 46, these records can do one of two things: either break open aspects of our family history, or simply add another piece to the puzzle. They will tell us:

  • Whether our ancestors owned or leased their land and property
  • Who the landlord was
  • Whether their land ownership, and hence possibly their economic circumstances, changed over time, by comparison with other records
  • What type of property they owned
  • Who their neighbours were & their relative wealth within the community
  • Whether they owned/leased one or more properties

Where can they be found?

As with so many other records, more and more is becoming available online, or able to be ordered online. However the following sources will be useful to see the original documents:

  • The regional records office for the county where your family lived
  • The National Archives (England/Scotland/Ireland)
  • Parish chest records (check out what’s available on the Family Search site for your family’s parish –this can be very helpful for those living overseas).

You might also try a newspaper search through the British Newspaper Archive (available by fee) or through the 19th century British newspapers (available online from the National Library of Australia, or equivalent, with your NLA library card) to see if there is any mention of the tithe assessments in your family’s parish.

Remember every little snippet of information helps us build up a picture of our ancestral families and can sometimes open up a whole new perspective and field of research.

The liability for tithes in the mid-19th century may be inter-linked to the enclosure of land in the parish. You can read my ancestral discoveries on enclosures here.

Have you made any discoveries about your family by using tithe records and maps? Why not share them on your blog or in the comments? 

Are there additions/clarifications/corrections regarding Tithe records which would be useful to other readers?

From Week 47 (the next post), we’ll move into resources for occupations.