Tithe Records

The tithe system, which originally earmarked one-tenth of the produce of the land (and subsequently one-tenth of income in cash) for the upkeep of the anglican clergy, was introduced into Ireland under English law. The system was unpopular and regarded as unfair and unjust as the majority of the population was Roman Catholic and a high proportion of Protestants were Presbyterian and did not conform to the Established Church. Tithes were abolished by the Disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1871. The Tithe Composition Applotment records comprise 275 volumes covering the years from 1823 to 1837. Each volume deals with a single parish, the content being sub-divided by townland and recording against each townland the names of the occupiers, the areas subject to tithe, the valuation and the tithe payable. They relate primarily to the six counties which now constitute Northern Ireland but other counties (e.g. Cavan) will appear where a townland straddles the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. The tithe books are unique records giving details of land occupation and valuations for individual holdings prior to the devastation wrought by the Great Famine of 1845 to 1849 and the accompanying mass emigration. For parish, townland and holding, the books give a picture of the quality of the land and the use made of it, differentiating between arable, pasture and non-productive land.The disastrous loss of historical material in the Four Courts fire of 1922 has left the tithe books as a unique genealogical source linking personal names with specific areas. However, several difficulties are presented in the use of the tithe books: a small number of parishes were not subject to tithe because the land was of such poor quality that no tithe could be levied; church lands were tithe free; local names were not always those selected by the Ordnance Survey during its delimitation of townlands and parishes. That delimitation involved considerable changes, including the division and renaming of townlands. The shift towards administrative standardisation was pushed further by legislation in the 1830s which transferred townlands from one parish to another and even from one county to another. Finally, it should be noted that the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland holds on microfilm an index to the books (ref. MIC/15K) and also microfilm copies of the applotment books for the three counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan (ref. MIC/442).


The principal strength of the collection is as a unique genealogical source for the period preceeding the Great Famine.

Physical characteristics

275 volumes 1823 to 1837 occupying 72 PRONI boxes.

Description or Catalogue

See PRONI reference FIN/5/A for catalogue of the papers.The catalogue is available for consultation in PRONI's Public Search Room.


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Added by PRONI | Last updated on: 09 February 2018