About the 1831 Tithe Defaulters

The records compiled in this dataset are the most important evidence we have of the people involved in the infamous Tithe War 1831-38. All occupants of land were required to pay an annual tithe (or religious tax) of 10% of the agricultural produce generated by that holding. This money was demanded by landholders, irrespective of their religion, and was paid directly to the official state church, the Anglican (Episcopalian) Church of Ireland.

However in 1830 and 1831, when increasing numbers refused to pay tithes, the Government set up the Clergy Relief Fund 1831 where Church of Ireland clergymen could claim for the arrears of 1831 tithes.

Explore the  1831 Tithe Defaulters

The names in these records are those recorded by the Church of Ireland clergy who refused to pay their tithe. The people most affected by the Tithe War are precisely those most affected by emigration and the famine in the next generation.

If a clergyman wished to seek assistance under the terms of the Act, he had to:

  • swear an Affidavit setting out the methods he had employed in attempting to recover the arrears
  • write a Schedule with the 'Names, Descriptions, and Places of Abode of the Persons, Occupiers of Land' within his Parish or the 'Representatives of such of them as are dead'
  • state how much tithe was due from each individual and how much they were in arrears.

Affidavits and Schedules were then sent to Dublin Castle for a decision as to whether relief would be granted or not.

The 1,061 pages of Tithe Defaulters record 29,027 names across 232 Parishes (see counties below) during June to August, 1832. This unique record of names, addresses and occupations provides an important genealogical source for Ireland, especially given the near total destruction of the 1831 census. Tithe Applotment Books cover more of Ireland but do not record occupations, or have the variety of 'observations' included in this Index.

Counties covered

 County   Tithe defaulters recorded 
Carlow 437
Cork 2,115
Kerry 20
Kilkenny 10,263
Laois 360
Limerick 851
Louth 965
Meath 36
Offaly 23
Tipperary 9,346
Waterford 1,838
Wexford 2,719

The Affidavits

While 232 parishes are recorded, there are only 123 Affidavits as several clergymen were vicars or rectors of more than one parish. The Affidavits give the clergyman name, witnessing Law Officer's signature (sometimes JP, Magistrate or Mayor), and often priests, tithe agents and vicars of adjoining parishes for which there are no Schedules.

The Affidavits repeatedly convey the united resistance to the payment of tithes, which they call a 'Combination'. Some mention the Whitefoot System and 'Hurlers', where under the pretext of holding hurling matches, mass protest meetings were held. The majority of the Affidavits deal with the violent resistance to the tithes. For example:

That in consequence of the general resistance to the payment of Tithes.... no proceedings were taken to enforce payment....and also from a Notice being posted up in said Parish (Grange Silvia, Co.Kilkenny) that if John Lane, who was employed in collecting said Tithes, did not quit said parish, to prepare his Coffin.

Affidavit of the Rev. John FrenchMemorialist was deterred... by the murder of the Rev. Mr. Whiting in his immediate neighbourhood.

Affidavit of the Rev. William Hughes

Several Affidavits refer to 'the affair at Carrickshock'. This incident terrified the clergymen and ended their attempts to recover tithe arrears. On 14th December 1831 in Carrickshock, County Kilkenny, a crowd of 500 people followed 38 police under Chief Constable Captain Gibbons, and a process server, Edmund Butler, whom the police were protecting. The crowd wanted Butler to be handed over to them. The confrontation turned nasty when a hail of stones rained down on the police and Gibbons, 14 sub-constables, Butler and 25 to 30 local people were killed.

The clergyman in whose parish this incident occurred understates the affair:

...by citation, and frequent notices to pay and settle afterwards by filing Bills in the Court of Exchequer, all which were rendered ineffectual by a combination and conspiracy among the Roman Catholic Parishioners which ended in the murder of the Chief Constable of Police and fourteen Sub-Constables.

Affidavit of Hans Hamilton, Vicar of Knocktopher

26 were charged but were all released. Some of them are listed as tithe defaulters, eg. Thomas Ryan, William Norris, James Cashin and James Walsh.

Information in the Schedules

There are various gems of information in the Schedules that may be priceless to family history researchers. For example:

Many widows and numerous occupations appear in the Schedules. Lists also give partnerships in the holding of land. Each partner is listed separately as a defaulter.

What do the index records include?

The online index records include the following:

For each defaulter:

Census information may give significant detail about the size and population of the parish. In some parishes more than 50% of households did not pay their tithe.

The List of Defaulters page gives the full list of defaulters recorded for a parish in the order they appear on the original document. This is an important tool as names are often grouped together for a reason. eg. An entry states that a person is the 'rep.' of the next entry (i.e. the representative of, being most commonly the executor). Women are recorded as the 'widow' of the following entry.

Source documents

The Tithe Defaulter Schedules are found among 162 boxes of Official Papers Miscellaneous Assorted (OPMA) files in the The National Archives of Ireland. These OPMA boxes have some items of great genealogical interest.

The Parish results page shows the OPMA reference for the parish. This is the reference number for the file for this parish at The National Archives of Ireland.