Tithe maps are detailed maps produced by surveys that took place in the late 1830s, the 1840s and the 1850s. The tithe apportionments are the lists of house dwellers that accompany the maps, and the two are linked together by numbers that appear on the tithe maps. This has the great value to family historians that it is possible to find out where an ancestor of yours lived in the 1840s, by looking them up in a tithe apportionment and then cross referencing the number with the corresponding tithe map. Most of the maps are very detailed and you can see the exact layout of their land, with any fields, and the shape of buildings and outbuildings.
Searching tithe apportionments used to be extremely time consuming as the records are rarely indexed. In the last couple of years, however, many counties have begun to digitise their tithe maps, putting the whole map online in sections, and providing a searcheable online index of people who crop up in the corresponding tithe apportionment.
The Tithe Commutation Act of 1836
Tithe maps all began with this. An Act of Parliament that changed the way people paid tithes, or dues, or what we might call taxes to the local church. Payment from the community was used to fund churches and clergymen in those days and each person who owned land, no matter how great or small their property, had to give the clergy of their local church a tenth of everything they made, earned, grew or produced. This could be in the form of one lamb in ten for the church table, one tenth of their crop of potatoes, or one tenth of their onions. By the 1830s this form of paying for the upkeep of the church had become a bit outdated. Since the Act of Enclosure, which effectively stopped a lot of individual people owning their own land and living off the land, farming was left more to the rich landowners. It became more convenient for the clergy to be paid in money, rather than in goods or food.
For more information on the tithe maps of Cheshire see our news page to find out how to search the Cheshire tithe maps online. See also news about the Yorkshire tithe map digitisation project.