A townland is one of the smallest land divisions in Ireland.
There are over 60,000 of them and they range in size from an acre or
two up to many thousands of acres. The majority are in the
hundreds of acres. Townlands have various origins, some bearing
ancient Irish names while others were created after the coming
of the Normans in 1169. The Gaelic names of the majority of
these divisions would seem to indicate a pre-Norman date for their
creation. In rural Ireland in particular, the townland names are of
great importance, still forming the basis for administrative purposes.
Given the common use of some surnames, families are often identified
by the townland they live in. It was common to allocate the land
between streams as townlands, but where streams were not suitably
available, the townlands were delineated with clay and stone banks
which we in Ireland like to call 'ditches'. It is unfortunate that
people are no longer as particular about the townland boundaries as
they were in the recent past. It is not unusual to see farms being
expanded and townland boundaries being bulldozed away to exist in
future only on maps. Townland indexes are available at the National
Library, National Archives and at most County Libraries. Griffith's
Valuation of Ireland was based on the townland system of land
Ogham Stone. Ancient boundary marker.
It is important to be aware of
townland subdivisions when conducting your research. They seldom
appear on maps but are used in church records. They are clung to with great zeal by those who know
which sub-division they live in. Very often the placename that
was held most dear by an emigrant was the subdivision, and you might
not find it in a reference book. In Skeheenarinky townland,
for example, the home of ballybegvillage.com, one can find many
subdivision names that are well known to the long established
families but which are often not known to newer families.
Attycrann, Coolroe, Seefin, Lyreen, are all sub-divisions of
Catholic Church records often used these sub-divisions as local
people told the priest (who may have been a native of some other
region) the immediate area they lived in and that's what was
recorded. So, Hogans from Lyreen would be the same family as Hogans
from Skeheenarinky. It's something to watch out for. Again, check with the County Libraries to see if there are
publications documenting the sub-divisions in your townland.
about Irish placenames
Some emigrants give their parish name as being the
place from which they emigrated. But which parish were they
talking about? There are Catholic Church parishes,
Protestant Church parishes, and civil parishes. To make matters
worse, Catholic church parishes were reorganized in the early 1800s
and some were amalgamated and others had their names changed. As
an example, the united parishes of Templetenny and Shanrahan in
South Tipperary are now separate parishes. Templetenny has become
Ballyporeen parish while Shanrahan has become Clogheen &
Burncourt parish. Parishes are made up of many townlands and it is
usually the Catholic parish that people refer to nowadays.
Griffiths Valuation uses Civil Parish and you will find that the
Catholic Church records work well in conjunction with Griffith's. As
confusing as all this sounds, there is no need to get bogged down as
the County Libraries will be able to tell you about the parish names
- what they were in Griffith's Valuation and what they are called
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Ireland was divided into 273 baronies. They were composed of
a larger number of townlands than a parish and are said to be an
ancient form of administrative unit used for the collection of taxes
etc. Even though the 1901 census was
conducted on a 'barony' system, the term has little relevance
today. Strange names like 'Eliogarty' and 'Iffa and Offa West' no
longer appear in modern legal documents.
A diocese is comprised of several parishes. These are church administrative
areas and define an area comprising several parishes under the
control of a bishop.
The Catholic Dioceses of Ireland-:
Achonry: Sections of Sligo,Mayo, Roscommon.
Ardagh and Clonmacnoise: Almost all of Longford and Leitrim.
Parts of Cavan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo and Westmeath
Armagh: Louth, most of Armagh. Parts of Tyrone, Derry and Meath
Cashel and Emly: Almost all of Tipperary and parts of Limerick
almost all of Fermanagh. Parts of Tyrone, Donegal, Louth and Cavan
Clonfert: Some of Galway, Offaly and Roscommon
Cloyne: Most of County Cork
Cork and Ross: Cork City and parts of County Cork
Derry: Almost all of Derry. Parts of Donegal, Tyrone and Antrim
Down and Connor: Almost all of Antrim and Down and part of Derry
Dromore: Some of Antrim, Armagh and Down
Dublin: City of Dublin, most of County Dublin,
Wicklow. Parts of Carlow, Kildare, Laois and Wexford
Elphin: Some of Roscommon, Sligo, Westmeath and Galway
Ferns: Almost all of Wexford and parts of Wicklow
Galway, Kilmacduagh and Kilfenora: Parts of Mayo, Galway and Clare
Kerry: Almost all of Kerry and parts of Cork
Kildare and Leighlin: Carlow. Parts of Kidare, Laois, Offaly, Kilkenny, Wickow and Wexford
Killala: Some of Mayo and Sligo
Killaloe: Some of Clare, Laois, Limerick, Offaly and Tipperary
Kilmore: Almost all of Cavan. Parts of Leitrim, Fermanagh, Meath and Sligo
Limerick: Most of Limerick. Parts of Clare and Kerry
Meath: Almost all of Meath, Westmeath and
Offaly. Parts of
Longford, Louth, Dublin and Cavan
Ossory: Almost all of Kilkenny. Parts of Offaly and
Raphoe: Most of Donegal
Tuam: Some of Mayo, Galway and Roscommon
Waterford and Lismore: Waterford.
Sections of Tipperary and Cork
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||There are four provinces in
Ireland -: Munster, Leinster, Connaught, and Ulster. They contain
the following counties:
Munster -: Cork, Tipperary,
Waterford, Kerry, Limerick, and Clare.
Wexford, Wicklow, Kilkenny, Kildare, Carlow, Louth, Meath, Laois,
Offaly, and Westmeath.
Roscommon, Longford, Sligo, Mayo, Leitrim, .
Ulster-: Donegal, Derry,
Antrim, Armagh, Tyrone, Down, Fermanagh, Cavan, and Monaghan
(Note that Donegal Monaghan, and Cavan are in Ulster but are part of the
Republic of Ireland.)