Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Irish valuation records: Tracing the tenancy & ownership of a family home: Warblestown

Consecutive years of rate books
are bound together into larger volumes.
Property valuation records are an important resource for learning about the places in which our ancestors lived in the land of Ireland. In searching through the extant rate books — which date from the mid-1850s — held by the Valuation Office in Dublin, we may be able to discover not only the homes in which our family members lived, but when they lived in them, thereby helping us to establish significant dates in our family histories. A change recorded in the rate books may help us to confirm details such as the date of migration for an ancestor, his/her date of death, or the date of sale for the property in which he/she lived.

The principal behind valuation records has always been to assess the financial value of land and buildings for the purpose of taxation. Each year any alteration in a property is recorded. Revisions documented include such things as the names of occupiers, i.e. the tenant or the person who paid the rent and immediate lessors, i.e. the person to whom the rent was paid (most often the name of the landlord or middleman, sometimes owner), differences in the quality of the property, increases in acreage leased (for farm land), as well as any modification in overall assessed value.

The key for the Kilsallaghan, County Dublin, rate book revisions:
on the left 1864-1872; on the right 1871-1884.
Notice that the difference in ink colours is not always so distinct.
Rate book revisions have always been noted in different colours of ink, with one colour for each year, and the alterations are usually dated, though not always. This can get a bit confusing, especially in those books in which the ink colours are quite similar year to year. Also, since the revisions were done once per year, not every change that occurred on any given property is recorded in the books, and sometimes changes are noted in more than one book — important information as my research bears out — and strict attention to detail is requisite for success.

Ideally you will already know the townland in the county in which the person for whom you are searching resided; however, if you have a good amount of time and a great deal of patience you can also browse through the valuation books.

The ink colour key for the revisions dating from 1893-1902.
Misters Campbell, Carbury and Irwin made the revisions.
Kilsallaghan, County Dublin, Rate Books.
On my most recent visit to the Valuation Office in the Irish Life Centre, Dublin City, I brought with me a list of properties connected to my family. On that list is Warblestown House, a home connected to Fitzpatrick and Kettle family ancestors on my maternal tree. I wanted to confirm information, as well as add to my previous research on the property.

Warblestown House

Members of the Fitzpatrick family lived in Warblestown House before it was occupied by Kettle family members, but their respective histories with the house are deeply connected. Splendidly, to this day, the house is still owned and occupied by Kettle descendants, an unbroken chain of provenance.

If you are familiar with Griffith's Valuation, and travel back in time to the valuation records of May 1847 — available online — you will find one James Mahon as the tenant of Warblestown, renting the house, 'offices' (a catchword denoting outer buildings on the property) and land, comprising 37 acres, zero roods, and 27 perches1, from his landlord Colonel Burton, and paying a total of £39 and 14 shillings rent per annum. Although I do not know what became of James Mahon, he left Warblestown house sometime between 1847 and 1861.

The earliest valuation record I was able to find for my Fitzpatrick ancestors indicates that in 1861 my 2nd great-grandfather Joseph Fitzpatrick held the tenancy of the house and land around it. Joseph and his wife Mary Kettle married 14 September 1857, and I believe Warblestown may have been the only home in which they ever lived together, so he may have held the tenancy earlier; however, there is no extant record to prove it.

Joseph Fitzpatrick, tenant of Warblestown, renting the house, offices and land
comprising 31 acres, 10 roods, for £35 per year from 'Reps. of Colonel Burton'
(an indication that Burton was probably dead).
The entry is revised in May of 1862, making note of 4 buildings added to the property.
Joseph and Mary welcomed nine children into Warblestown House over the course of their residency there. Sadly, the house would bear witness to profound losses in the Fitzpatrick family.

During one terrible autumn in 1864, their eldest daughter Mary died on 27 November aged only five years. Only eight days later, on 5 December, their 4th born son Nicholas, twin of my great-grandfather Thomas, also died. Nicholas was barely twenty-one months old. Mary and Nicholas both died of 'Cynanche Trachealis', what we now know as the croup.2

Tragedy stuck the Fitzpatrick family again, on 23 April 1871, the day of second born daughter Alice's 10th birthday, Mary Kettle Fitzpatrick died at Warblestown House. Mary was only 39 years old, and her youngest child Teresa was just two months shy of her 1st birthday.3 On that day, as the eldest surviving daughter, Alice stepped into her mother's role, caring for her younger siblings.

After the death of his wife Mary, it appears that Joseph and his children did their best to persevere. The family stayed on at Warblestown. In fact, on 29 September 1872, the lease on the house and property was renewed for a term of 32 years.

In 1876, only five years after their mother's death, the Fitzpatrick children suffered yet another horrific loss. On the night of 22 December, just three days before Christmas, their father Joseph Fitzpatrick froze to death on a road in north County Dublin. He was 47 years old.

There was a coroner’s inquest because of the manner of Joseph's death, an inquest which offered the following conclusion: 'Certified cause of death: Exposure to cold whilst under the influence of liquor some hours.' It was judged that because he was inebriated, Joseph decided to leave his horse and carriage outside a public house in Swords and walk home to Warblestown house. The following day Joseph's body was found by the side of a road in a state of undress commonly associated with a person suffering hypothermia.4

Joseph Fitzpatrick died intestate — that is, without leaving a will. Mary’s brother Patrick J. Kettle applied for letters of administration over the estate. In 1877, Patrick was granted administration over the matters of the estate; the grant cited his having taken guardianship of the Fitzpatrick children, the youngest of whom was then just shy of 6 years of age.5

Advertisement that appeared in
The Freeman's Journal,
announcing the 1877 auction of the
Fitzpatrick property and effects.
As administrator of the estate Patrick was responsible for the disposal of all of the assets. In 1877, Patrick Kettle mounted an auction of the estate, via the firm of George Crooke, an auction which included the lease on the house and on all lands farmed by Joseph Fitzpatrick, as well as everything that in any way pertained to the property, including all animals, equipment, products of the farms, and every stick of furniture in the house.

It appears as though the auction may not have gone forward,  or only some of what was on offer may have been auctioned, because the death of their father was not the end of the legal relationship the Fitzpatrick children had with the property.

Despite the fact that his father left no will, court records find that in 1879, 1892, 1894 and 1895, John Fitzpatrick — eldest son of Joseph Fitzpatrick and Mary Kettle Fitzpatrick — was legally recognized as ‘the person rated or liable to be rated of being concerned in the management of the hereditament’.6 Use of the word ‘hereditament’ signals that the lease of the house was part of an inheritance.

The 'hereditament' as it applies to John Fitzpatrick, was an ‘incorporeal hereditament’, that is, an inheritance of the right to lease the property. Although the tenancy was initially offered for sale, it appears John may have exercised his right to it, rather than have it sold. Thus the Fitzpatrick children likely stayed on at Warblestown House after the death of their father. Also, marriage registration records show that Alice Fitzpatrick, the second born daughter of Joseph Fitzpatrick and Mary Kettle was married from the house in August of 1886.7

Although first born son John Fitzpatrick was still legally connected to the property until at least 1895, the Irish Land Commission Return of Judicial Rents of November and December of 1888 (published 1889; see entry #108 in the image below)8 revealed an odd finding. It shows William F. Burton as the landlord of Warblestown House, and has Andrew J. Kettle named as the tenant rather than John Fitzpatrick. Given that A.J. Kettle was living with his family in Millview House, Malahide, at this time, this likely indicates that he was paying the rent on the tenancy, not that he was living there.

Irish Land Commission Return of Judicial Rents of November and December 1888.
Click on image to view larger version.

The court records of 1879, 1892, 1894 and 1895 that I mentioned earlier are principally concerned with John Fitzpatrick not taking care of business with respect to Warblestown. John had failed to pay the taxes on the property, and wasn’t properly maintaining the property, leaving him liable in the Petty Sessions Court. It appears Andrew J. Kettle may have stepped in, perhaps because John was unable to successfully manage the farm lands in order to support his siblings and pay the rent on the property.

John Fitzpatrick died 10 June 1899 at the age of only 41. Unlike his father before him, John left a will. The will was probated in 1902, with Andrew J. Kettle named as the sole beneficiary.9

The Warblestown property again emerged in the property records in 1901 when it is shown that the property was bought by Laurence J. Kettle (eldest son of Andrew J. Kettle). The Return of Advances under the Purchase of Land (Ireland) Act, 1891, Section 33, 1901-1902 shows that Laurence J. Kettle bought the property — 30 acres, 3 roods, 38 perches — on 18 April 1901 for £980. This seems curious, since other evidence shows that in 1901, at 23 years of age, Laurence was out of Ireland on an apprenticeship (he was an electrical engineer). Laurence did not return to live in Dublin until 1906, lodging — at 5 shillings a week — in Clonmore House on Naul Road, another house owned by his father.

As I mentioned, it seems somewhat curious that, given his circumstances, Laurence would have bought the house, but according to the aforementioned return apparently he did buy it.

Considering the fact that A.J. Kettle was the lone beneficiary of John Fitzpatrick’s will, and in light of the 1888 Land Commission return, I surmised that it was A.J. Kettle who had bought the house. When I searched in the revision books, I found that A.J. Kettle was named as the owner of the house, as illustrated below. Laurence Kettle is not named in the revision books.

Andrew J. Kettle bought Warblestown house and lands in 1907, as indicated in the immediate lessors column.
L.A.P. indicates it was a purchase under the Land Acts, meaning Kettle received financial assistance under
the Land Act to help him purchase the property.
In 1914 a further revision was made, assessing the property at 31 acres, zero roods, and 5 perches.
Click on image to view larger version.
In another Kilsallaghan revision book I found another entry, inserted below, for Andrew J. Kettle's connection to the property. As you can see it confirms the purchase of the property in 1907 via L.A.P.; however, there are a couple of other very interesting revisions.

The first revision is recorded in light blue pen and is barely legible; in fact, you may not be able to see it. In the far right column the number '99' appears, indicating 1899. Its corresponding entry appears in the column Townland & Occupiers: 'Reps. of Joseph Fitzpatrick' is crossed out and above it in light blue is written the name John. Why was John named as the tenant in 1899, the year in which he died? The crossing out of 'Reps. of Joseph Fitzpatrick' serves as a marker of the death of Patrick J. Kettle, who had been the legal representative of Joseph Fitzpatrick, as noted earlier in this post, and had indeed died in 1894. It is likely the reason for the appearance of John's name in 1899. Entered in red in 1901, Andrew J. Kettle is again named as the tenant.

1899: John Fitzpatrick named as occupier; Reps. of Joseph Fitzpatrick is crossed out.
1901: Andrew J. Kettle named as occupier.
1907: Andrew J. Kettle is named as owner, thus the phrase 'In fee',
having bought the property under the Land Acts.
The house does not appear in the 1901 census. There are a couple of possibilities in this case. The 1901 Dublin Census Townland Index does indicate a Warblestown entry or entries and this/these census records may be among the very small batch of materials that the NAI has not yet released, or the record may no longer be extant. Another possibility is that the house may not have been occupied on census day, so it would not be included since a census is principally a record of individuals not houses.

The 1911 census shows the continued ownership of Warblestown house by members of the Kettle family, and as I mentioned at the outset of this piece, the house is still owned and occupied by Kettle descendants. Combining the history of the Fitzpatrick family with that of the Kettle family, records show that Warblestown House has been in our family for more than 150 years.

All valuation record images that I photographed, and include in this post, are from this volume:
County Dublin, District of Balrothery,
Electoral Division of Kilsallaghan, 1856-1941.
Retrieved at Valuation Office, Irish Life Centre Dublin, 19 January 2015.

1. Irish land was measured in units of statute acres, roods and perches, and they relate to one another as follows: one statute acre measures 4840 square yards and is equivalent to 4 roods, thus one rood measures 1210 square yards (4840 ÷ 4 = 1210). One rood is equivalent to 40 perches, so one perch measures 30 square yards (1210 ÷ 40 = 30). With land divided in this manner it was easier to rent/sell small parcels of land. See www.askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valuation.

2. Per civil registration records of death: Mary Fitzpatrick, Nicholas Fitzpatrick, GRO, Dublin.

3. Per civil registration record of death Mary Kettle Fitzpatrick, GRO, Dublin.

4. Per civil registration record of death: Joseph Fitzpatrick, GRO, Dublin.

5. Joseph Fitzpatrick: Calendar of Wills and Administrations, National Archives of Ireland, 1877. Online access.

6. Irish Petty Sessions Court Records, via FindMyPast.ie.

7. Per civil registration record of marriage: Alice Fitzpatrick Ward, GRO, Dublin.

8. 'Return of Judicial Rents Fixed by Sub-Commissioners and Civil Bill Courts, Notified to Irish Land Commission, November and December 1888.' Enhanced British Parliamentary Papers On Ireland. Web. 15 Dec. 2013. (http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/documents/18335/page/485831).

9. John Fitzpatrick: Calendar of Wills and Administrations, National Archives of Ireland, 1899. Online access. As well, other legal records tie Andrew J. Kettle and John Fitzpatrick. Irish Court Petty Sessions records cite both men as surety (i.e. ‘a person who takes responsibility for another person’s performance of an undertaking’) for repairs to the property of Patrick J. Kettle, in the two years prior to Patrick’s death in 1894.

Resources for further research:

Unfortunately, the valuation revision books dating after 1856 for the 26 counties of the Republic of Ireland are not currently available online; however for those searching for family members in counties Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, the valuation revision books for the years between 1864 and 1933, inclusive, are available for free searching on the PRONI website. As is the case with in-person searches, you cannot search by family name, but instead must search by townland or county and parish. For several years now Land Valuation Books for 1824 to 1856 have been available via the website of the National Archives of Ireland at http://census.nationalarchives.ie/search/vob/home.jsp

For another angle on what might be found in valuation records, see Mystery Monday: A curious find in valuation records sparks new questions.



  1. A very interesting post, Jennifer, but so sad too. I do love the Valuation Office records - they are crying out to be digitised and made available online (even if it is only the images). I understand the Dublin records are now available on an in-house computer, were you offered these?

    I am aware of the James Mahon (in Griffiths). I wondered if he was connected to the James Mahon who held land 'in fee' in Coolquay, Kilsallaghan (in Griffiths) and passed it to a Patrick Mahon by 1876 (landowners index). Actually, I wondered if/how they were connected to my Patrick Mahon from Yellow Walls; some of my Mahon family from Yellow Walls are buried in Kilsallaghan. I could spend a week in the Valuation Office, tracing land ownership, and still not cover everything!

    1. Dara,

      Thanks very much for your comments. I’m with you, I do also love the Valuation Office records, and could spend weeks looking through them. Although they have digitised versions of the books for Dublin City, and counties Kerry, Mayo and Tipperary on an in-house computer, I am drawn in by the old tomes and love to peruse them. The records are so interesting. Though I always bring a property list with me, I have yet to get through it.

      These possible connections you mention, such as the one with James Mahon, always greatly intrigue me. My Kettle cousin, who now lives in Warblestown House, asked me what became of Mr. Mahon and I would love to be able to tell him.


  2. Jenn, thank you for sharing this interesting post. So very sad, all the losses suffered by those children, and poor Alice, losing her mother on her 10th birthday. I don’t know how they endured. It seems to me the Kettle men must have been very generous to step in the way they did. By any chance is this Alice, your mother’s Alice, or am I mistaken?

    1. Charlotte,

      Thanks very much for your comments. Good observation, Alice Fitzpatrick is ‘my mother’s Alice’. As I just said to my cousin Kathleen on FB, both she and you are right on the money. :-)

      I believe my 3rd great-grandmother Alice O’Kavanagh Kettle, mother of Mary Kettle Fitzpatrick and Andrew J. Kettle, imbued in her children the spirit of great generosity. Andrew J. Kettle addresses this in his memoir. My mother would say, ‘that is how it was done; this is the way in which we conducted ourselves’.

      Laurence J. Kettle, eldest son of Andrew J., always showed generosity toward his cousin Alice, as well as toward my mother and her siblings. Also upon his death, Laurence’s will provided for Elizabeth, the daughter of his late brother Thomas Michael Kettle, and divided his considerable estate between various charitable concerns.


  3. An excellent post showing how to use a much under-utilised source, the revision lists. I just love them. they are available via LDS microfilm if you know the townland (searching by county, land then townland - doesn't work using parish or townland directly from memory). Of course the major proble is that it's all black and white so you have to follow the lines. I haven't used the judicial rents so that's one to put in my list.

    1. Pauleen, thanks very much for your comments. Thanks too for mentioning the LDS microfilm availability. The principal problem I have with the microfilm is, since it's black and white, the revisions are rendered useless for those coloured pen lines that have no date attached to them, especially since the revisions are not always in consecutive years. Also, if I’m not mistaken, LDS has a limited number of years available on microfilm. I shouldn't complain because some access is certainly better than none at all. Hopefully the digitisation of the revision books for Dublin City & counties Kerry, Mayo and Tipperary is a sign that eventually they will be online. Fingers crossed.


  4. Jennifer, a very thorough and interesting post. Thank you. Do you know, are these records going to be online soon? I find the information in the comments a bit confusing. I thought digitization was done so they could be put online. I’m afraid I am a bit of luddite. Catherine.

    1. Hi Catherine, thanks very much for your comments. In January I asked about online access. According to one of the staff members in the valuation office, there are no current plans to put these records online. Their programme of digitisation appears to be only for in-house computer access, but you never know, plans are subject to change. Here is their news about the digital images: http://www.valoff.ie/en/Latest_News/View_digital_images_of_Archive_Books.html



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