o do effective research in Ireland, it's important
that you have the place of origin for your ancestor. Most sources
you refer to will require this information. Let me explain how
the various divisions of Ireland.
In "Irish and Scotch-Irish Ancestral Research",
Margaret Falley says, "Ireland is divided into four
provinces. Each province is divided into counties; each county
into baronies; each barony into parishes; and each parish into
There are in all of Ireland 28 diocese, 32 counties, 325
baronies, 2,447 parishes, and about 64,000 townlands.
The present provinces and their counties are as follows:
- Connaught, the western province of Ireland,
includes the counties of Galway, Leitrim, Mayo,
Roscommon, and Sligo.
- Leinster, the middle and southeastern portion of
Ireland, includes the counties of Carlow, Dublin,
Kildare, Kilkenny, Leix (Queen's County),
Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly (King's County),
West Meath, Wexford and Wicklow.
- Munster, the southernmost province, includes the
counties of Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick,
Tipperary, and Waterford.
- Ulster, the northern province of Ireland, was
divided into the nine counties of Antrim, Armagh,
Cavan, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry,
Monaghan, and Tyrone. In 1920, Cavan, Donegal and
Monaghan joined the Republic of Ireland leaving
Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh and Londonderry
as Northern Ireland.
- Poor Law Unions
Poor Law Unions were established for poor relief by the
Poor Relief Act (1) 1838 and were multiples of townlands,
usually with a large market town as a center, within a
radius of about ten miles.
Originally, it was the district of an Irish chieftain.
The name of the barony is used in land, military, tax and
some other government records as descriptive of the
district or section of the county.
The parish was in early times a purely ecclesiastical
subdivision of the diocese and it became also an area for
civil or government purposes and, as such, could be said
to be a subdivision of the barony.
There are two kinds
of parishes--one is Civil, which is used for census and
valuation, and the other is Ecclesiastical, which is a
unit of local church administrations and covers a number
of Civil parishes. Catholic parishes do not coincide with
the name of the Protestant or Civil parishes. When a
parish name is given without reference to either Catholic
or Protestant, it is usually a Protestant or Civil parish.
In size, the townland is the smallest geographical
designation in Ireland and vary considerably. The average
containing about 350 acres each. Successfully locating
the records for your family, will be helped by knowing
these specific jurisdictions for your ancestors homes.
spellings have only been consistent since the 1850s or
so; therefore, one townland might have several spellings
(e.g. Keady, Kady, Cady in Co.Armagh).
To locate the various jurisdictions for your townland,
- "The General Alphabetical Index to the
Townlands and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of
Ireland: Based on the Census of Ireland for the
Year 1851", Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc.,
Baltimore, MD 1992
- "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland"
by Samuel Lewis, S. Lewis & Co., London (1837)
If neither of these two resources list the townland
name you seek, check the LDS
Church Locality Catalogue (fiche version) under the
subject: Gazetteers for issues of gazetteers published
either earlier or later than the above.
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