Using a database at a government office

Digitized images of the Irish canceled land books can only be viewed on computers at Tailte Éireann (TE), Dublin, Ireland. The original volumes have been filmed and removed from circulation.

To access a townland, the following path within their database is used:

Archive Books > County > electoral division (ED) > volume by years > book # (usually 1 to 8) > Townland index > townland. (See images)

The ED folder contains sub-folders.

  • One sub-folder is the volume information containing images of the book cover and its spine. The volume is a bound book with an embossed title on the spine and includes the date range, 1856-1939 (See images). A volume number (v.2) is written in ink or marker on the spine, and a paper affixed to the front cover.  The number corresponds alphabetically by ED within a county. County Galway has 18 EDs; Ballymoe is designated volume 2. The date of creation is unknown but would have been after 1939.
  • Other subfolders contain 8 separate books/manuscripts. When a book was canceled, the current information was copied into a new book and used for an undefined period of years until the need for a new and cleaner copy. The 8 books do not appear to have a separate cover nor be delineated within the bound volume.

The 1856-1939 folder contains 8 sub-folders of the canceled books covering 1856-1939. One navigates the bound volume using the folders designated as a Book #. The book numbers seem to be a TE designation to define each canceled book within the volume. Each canceled book covers a span of years, but the folder may not indicate the years, nor is it always clear from the images. Each canceled book contains a townland index with page numbers (See image). The page number for a townland may be the same across multiple books.


I conclude these are unpublished images made from a previously unpublished source. Since important details are missing, I believe the citation should begin with the repository and use their database file path to reach the item of interest.

The QuickCheck Models for archives (EE p. 91) seem to apply but I am chasing my tail on how to put the pieces together without mixing elements.


Where: Tailte Éireann (TE), Dublin, Ireland, onsite database

Wherein: Archive Books > County Galway > Ballymoe [Electoral Division] > Ballymoe 1856-1939 Vol Galway > book 8.

When: accessed 28 September 2023

Source of the source: held by Tailte Éireann of Dublin, Ireland but now restricted.



Who: Valuation Office, Ireland

What: “County Galway District of Glennamaddy E.D. Ballymoe 1856-1939”, imaged [volume containing multiple canceled land books]

When:  unknown

Where: see above

Details: County Galway, Ballymoe Electoral Division, dates not specified, p.9, Cloonruff townland, 1a, John Keane, occupier.

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Submitted byEEon Wed, 10/18/2023 - 09:34

Hello, Patti. Let’s see if we can simplify the issue.

Whenever we encounter a new situation or new source, we ask ourselves: “How does this differ from a similar source I’m already using elsewhere? How is it the same?”

Traditionally, when we walk into a record office and use their registers, we cite

Jurisdiction/Agency,  “Exact Name of Register Taken from Its Cover,” page number; agency office where we accessed the register, City, County/State/Province/Whatever.

We don’t cite that register as being on the tier of shelves along the back wall of the vault, second tier from left, third shelf from top, second book from right end of shelf.

So:  if we walk into a record office and learn that the register we need has been digitally imaged for in-house use only, and we are directed to a computer station where we can view the images just as though we were looking at the book itself, why would we identify the computer station and the in-house network filing system through which we view the register? 

Inhouse digital filing systems, like shelving arrangements, can change. What doesn’t change is the fact that you looked at an official image of that office’s Register Whatever : page whatever.

Similarly, if we go into a record office and are told that the book we want is so fragile that the office made photostats or a transcript for us to use, how would we cite that?  We’d cite the book and say that we used the photostats or the transcription. So, why would digital images  be different from an in-house photostat?

Bottom line:

  • When we access a register online, from our own home, we cite the book itself; then we need to identify the website and its database and URL or path by which we navigated through the website. Without an identification of the website that published the images, that register cannot be accessed online.
  • If we go into the register office itself and use the office's digital copy of a fragile register, we cite the exact register and then state that we used digital images available only in-house.

Submitted byPatti Salvaggioon Wed, 10/18/2023 - 11:24

Thank you for untangling my thought process.  This is my attempt at the citation.

Valuation Office, Ireland,  “County Galway District of Glennamaddy E.D. Ballymoe 1856-1939,”  p.9, Cloonruff townland, 1a, John Keane, occupier; digital images, accessed 28 September 2023, available only at Tailte Éireann, Dublin, Ireland. The volume contains eight canceled land books covering the years indicated on the spine.

My concern is that someone else would not know which of the eight canceled books I refer to because there is not a clear set of dates to say, "this record is the book covering years xx to xx."

Submitted byEEon Wed, 10/18/2023 - 16:23

Patti, Your citation is quite clear, considering that I have not seen the actual registers. We do randomly find sectioned registers, with duplicate pagination or no pagination, that create problems of this type. In those cases, a bit of study will usually yield some distinguishing factor we can describe to better identify what we have used. As a cautious researcher, I'm sure you would have done that.