A new web site features online Irish Townland Maps. The site proclaims, "For those involved with Irish genealogy this is the most important map collection ever published. Surveyed between 1829 and 1843, our Irish Townland Maps are packed with detail and are of superb quality and craftsmanship. They are both an excellent gift for anyone with an interest in Ireland and a wonderful source of information for researchers."
The maps that form the Past Homes collection are the First Edition 6-inch scale Ordnance Survey maps of Ireland, surveyed between 1829 and 1843 - also known as the "Townland maps". Those involved in Irish genealogy regard them as the most important maps ever produced as they were the first maps to accurately show the boundaries and names of all the townlands, parishes, and baronies in Ireland. Past Homes is unique in that it covers both the north and the south of Ireland.
By the early 19th century it was becoming apparent to the British Parliament that Ireland's local taxation system, the "County Cess", was outdated and unusable. The County Cess was based on ancient land units, known as townlands, which had for centuries provided the framework for society throughout Ireland and was how each local community delimited and identified itself. The main problem was that, while the names and limits of the townlands were reasonably well known, the accurate acreage and subsequent the ratable value were uncertain.
In 1824 the director of the Ordnance Survey (OS), Lt. Col. Thomas Colby, was authorized by the British Parliament to undertake a survey of all of Ireland at a scale of 6 inches to 1 statute mile as part of planned reforms to Ireland's taxation system. Such a detailed nationwide mapping survey had never been attempted anywhere in the world before.
Although the Ordnance Survey was tasked with accurately surveying the country, including the townlands, in 1825 a new government boundary department was created under the direction of Richard Griffith. Their job was to ascertain and sketch all townland, parish, barony and county boundaries ahead of the main OS surveyors, who would follow up by surveying the boundaries and then accurately measure the acreages.
Work commenced in the north of the country and progressed south with each county in turn being surveyed, drawn, engraved, and published. The time taken between the survey of a county being completed and it being published was normally around 3 years.
Many technical advances and innovations were developed during the 6-inch survey of Ireland since this was the first time an entire country had been mapped at such a large scale. These advances and the quality of the copper plate engraving meant that, when the maps were published between 1833 and 1846, they were arguably the most detailed, accurate, and beautiful ever produced.
These maps are now available online and as high-resolution images. The pricing is reasonable at $5 to subscribe, and that fee is reimbursed on first map download purchase from as little as $20. PastHomes.com also sells maps on CD-ROM and as high-resolution printed maps, suitable for framing.
To learn more or to access the online Ordnance Survey maps, go to http://www.pasthomes.com.