Today I’m posting Week 46 in my Beyond the Internet series in which I explore the sources of information beyond our computer screens and this week’s topic is Valuations and Council Rates. Unfortunately I’m running late with a couple of weeks due to our recent trip back to PNG and family commitments so will be playing catch up over the coming week or two.
Once upon a time when I was helping with adult education classes on family history I used to suggest that one way to think about finding research resources for our ancestors, is to reflect on our own interaction with the public record. It’s surprising how many of these we have in common with some variations. Valuation records are one of these on-going resources which were touched on briefly back in Week 3 of this series.
Through the centuries it’s been necessary to tax people for the services they, or their community, use whether it be for workhouses, poor relief, support of the clergy or more recently public services such as roads, libraries, water etc. One of the ways taxes have been assessed is on land or property owned or leased by individuals, or businesses. These days this would usually translate into your local government rates or taxes. You may find them listed as council rates (more recently) or valuation rolls (in the UK) depending on where or when you’re searching.
WHY USE VALUATIONS?
These records can potentially tell us a great deal about our ancestors, for example:
Whether they owned or leased their land and property
- Who their landlord was
- Whether their land ownership, and hence possibly their economic circumstances, changed over time
- What type of property they owned
- Where their property was within a street
- Who their neighbours were & their relative wealth within the community
- Whether they owned one or more properties
WHERE TO FIND THEM?
State or national archives in your home country or your ancestor’s country of origin
- City archives (eg City of Sydney archives- now available online)
- Local reference libraries
- Parish records especially for older periods (check out what’s available on the Family Search site for your family’s parish).
WHAT DISCOVERIES HAVE I MADE WITH THEM
The locations of my McCorquodale 2xgreat-grandfather’s residence on the Ardkinglas estate in Argyll
- Landlord information for my Kent ancestors and changes of property
- Location of the Dorfprozelten Germans and other families in inner suburban Sydney.
- Details of my Kunkel, Kent and Partridge ancestors properties in Ipswich, Queensland.
- The residential location of Mr Cassmob’s McKenna family in Melbourne, and hence its economic circumstances.
- Tenancy and later ownership of my Irish ancestors from Co Clare, and subsequent inheritors of the land.
- Probable residence of my Sherry ancestors outside Gorey, Wexford.
Ireland is a very specific instance of the importance of valuations as the Griffith Valuation remains one of the critical ways of tracing Irish families prior to 1901.
Valuations can also be used to complement other records such as wills, land documents, census enumerations and the like. As always comparing information from different sources provides us with a richer picture of our ancestors’ lives and permits us to critically assess each record’s data.
Have you used valuations to good effect in your research?
Have a look at these posts by other family historians about how they’ve used valuations/council rates (this is just a sample):
Genealogy’s Star (a slightly more indirect reference)