Irish Genealogical Research Society Launches 1901 Townland Database

The following announcement was written by the Irish Genealogical Research Society:

The 1901 Index to Townlands is the key to identifying all land divisions in Ireland, and it is for the first time being made available online as a searchable database. It will quickly prove to be a resource that genealogists will come back to again and again as their research progresses.

This new database has been made possible through the hard work of two Australians: historian Perry McIntyre and genealogist Terry Eakin, both IGRS members. They spent two years carefully inputting all of the data from the original 1901 hardcopy publication.

There are just over 64,000 townlands in Ireland. They are Ireland’s most basic – and ancient – land divisions, measuring from just a few acres to several hundred. From the mid-19th century, just before the period of the Great Hunger, Irish land divisions became standardised through the introduction of the Poor Law System in 1838. Although the Poor Law was abandoned in the 1920s, the same system of land division is still in use to this day.

Allowing for population density, the Poor Law System bundled together groups of townlands to form District Electoral Divisions (DED), which in turn were united to form Poor Law Unions (PLU). The residents of each DED paid the poor rate and elected the poor law guardians. As the 19th century progressed, PLU boundaries and subdivisions were also used in the administration of civil registration, census enumeration, health care provision, compilation of electoral rolls, the creation of pension boards under the Old Age Pension Act 1908, land valuation, property registration and local tax collection.

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Given that the first Index to Townlands – published in conjunction with the 1851 Census of Ireland – did not note DEDs, the 1901 edition is all the more valuable given that it also records the DED number required to access data from the 1901 census returns, the earliest complete census for Ireland.

The new database can be used to either locate a particular townland and the various land divisions it forms part of, or to identify the names of all townlands which fall into a given District Electoral Division or Civil Parish.

Helpful hyperlinks in the ‘Search Hints & Tips’ section also allow researchers to identify the locality on a set of maps dating from 1935 which denote the various land division boundaries. In addition, Ordnance Survey Map numbers are noted.

Steven Smyrl, IGRS chairman, said: “We are incredibly grateful to the generosity of Perry and Terry for providing the Society with this invaluable new resource. For the first time, genealogists will be able to identify a townland even where they have only a garbled spelling; better still, they will be able to establish the names of the townlands surrounding it, which was just not possible with the original hardcopy index.

“This is yet another resource being made available to genealogists through the IGRS website IrishAncestors.ie, and one which I know for sure will be of immense help to all Irish family historians for years to come.”

This database is being made available free to members and non-members alike on the IGRS website. Click here IrishAncestors.ie or click on the tab “Resources – Unique Resources” on the Homepage.

2 Comments

How absolutely wonderful! Superlatives abound. I really can’t get over how amazing it’s been to me over the past few months to be learning of so many all-of-a-sudden-available Irish genealogical research aids where before there was next to nothing. I’m particularly aware of this because I have a client whose research interest is in Ireland. Unseen helpers are everywhere these days, I do believe.

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Will there be a map put on line to go with it in the future, like the Griffith’s Valuation had?

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