Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Little House on the Slaney & the 1901 Census

     I’m still engrossed with my McGarr ancestors and all the new information I’m finding.  Engrossed isn’t the word, ecstatic is more like it!  Griffiths Valuation of Ballyraggan, Kildare shows Daniel McGarr, my 3rd great grandfather, with around 14 acres of land, a house and offices.  In this instance, the term offices refers to outbuildings such as barns or sheds.   I wrote to the Valuation Office in Ireland requesting copies of the cancelled land books of Ballyraggan and was very pleased with the results.
     These are a wonderful resource; they allow you to track the leaseholder and/or owner of a particular property through the years.   The changes in leaseholders and owners were noted in different colored inks correlating to the year the change occurred.  The books cover right up to the 1970’s.  You can then find the current owner of your ancestor's property on the Valuation website, enabling you to stroll around their land on your next visit to Ireland.   They must be getting used to it by now dontcha think? 
     Using the cancelled books I was able to track Daniel McGarr’s property till the lease was taken over by Thomas Hughes.  After some digging at the Irish Family History Foundation website it turns out Thomas Hughes was Daniel’s son in law, the husband of his daughter Sarah McGarr.  I then checked the 1901 census to see if I could find Thomas and Sarah.  http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search/
     Sarah was not there, but Thomas was.  Even better there was more information than I had ever dared hope.  There was the expected Household Return (Form A) asking the person’s name, age, profession marital status, place of birth and their religion; a matter of no small importance in Ireland at that time.  But wait, there were two more forms!  The House and Building Return (Form B1) not only gave the number of offices on the property, it actually described the house.  Under the heading, “Particulars of Inhabited Houses”   were columns for walls, asking if they were of sturdy construction such as stone or brick, or if made of mud or wood.  Another column for roofs asked whether of slate or tiles or thatch.  Others asked how many rooms, how many windows and what class of house it was from 1st to 4th class.
      The Return of Out-Offices and Farmsteadings, (Form B2), listed exactly what these out-offices were!  On my ancestor’s farm stood a stable, a piggery, a cow house, a fowl house and two sheds.  It was enough to gladden any family historian’s heart.  The information contained in the census along with  that found in the Valuation Books and earlier Tithe Applotment Books, not only satisfied my natural curiosity about how my ancestors lived, it gave me a clearer understanding of the social and economic factors that shaped their lives.  I can say with reasonable certainty they were long term leaseholders, not wealthy, but not on the lowest rung of their society and I even discovered that Daniel was a landlord himself!  He sub-let a tiny part of his holding to Patrick Cane, something I never would have suspected without viewing the valuation.