There are 32 counties in Ireland, 26 in the Republic and 6 in the North. We also often hear about the four provinces (Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connaught), especially in sports like Rugby.
Irish administrative divisions for the genealogist are unfortunately a lot more complicated than than. This page tries to help you make some sense of it!
Republic or Ireland and Northern Ireland
The island of Ireland is split into two parts: the independent “Republic of Ireland” and “Northern Ireland”, which is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The island measures 84,421 km², of which the Republic has 70,273 km². The latter has a population of 4,803,748; the North has 1,685,267 (2018 figures).
Dublin Castle, seat of power before Irish independence
The four provinces
The names of the four provinces of Ireland are derived from pre-Norman kingdoms. There were however a lot more than four kingdoms when the Normans invaded Ireland in 1171 under the leadership of Strongbow. This was really a private enterprise. The (Norman) kings of England followed quickly, to prevent Strongbow becoming a threat. They established four military districts, to aid the occupation. It was these that took the names of former kingdoms. The reason why we nowadays only hear about them in sports is because the provinces have no longer any official status.
The former royal houses of these four kingdoms were: Connacht in the West (O’Conor); Leinster in the East (MacMurrough); Munster in the South (O’Brien); and Ulster in the North (O’Neill).
The counties of the province of Connacht are: Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo. Its flag shows an eagle and a sword.
The counties of the province of Leinster are: Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow. Its flag is a harp set on a green background.
The counties of the province of Munster are: Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford. Its flag shows three gold crowns on a blue background.
The counties of the province of Ulster are Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry/Londonderry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan and Tyrone. Its flag highlights a red hand on a shield set on a background of gold/orange with a red cross.
Antrim, Armagh, Derry (also called Londonderry), Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone are part of Northen Ireland, the other three are part of the Republic of Ireland.
Ruins of Cashel, old royal seat and later monastery
The 32 counties
As mentioned, there are 32 counties. In present day Ireland, it is these counties that most people identify themselves with. The counties were also a Norman invention. The first county to be established was Dublin, always the center of the occupier’s power. This was in the 12th Century, immediately following the invasion. The last county, Wicklow, was not established until 1606.
When doing your research, you should note that some counties have changed name over time. For obvious reasons Kings County (Offally) and Queens County (Laois) no longer have the names given to them by the English.
Baronies have been obsolete since 1898. Up to then however, land and property valuations were organised according the barony, so it is worth being able to identify the barony in which an ancestor’s townland (see below) was located.
There are ecclesiastical (church; and to make things more complicated,there are Catholic and Church of Ireland ones, both covering Ireland but of course with completely different boundaries) and civil parishes and they have nothing to do with each other. The civil parish is the one we deal with here. Each county is made up of a number of civil parishes. County Leitrim has only 17. However, many others have over 100 civil parishes. In total there are ca. 2,500 civii parishes in Ireland. In the past they were responsible for the maintenance of Irish land and property taxes and records.
Dundrum parish church
The townland is the smallest and most fundamental of all Irish land divisions. Townlands vary greatly in size and population, but they are all fairly small If you are able to find the townland from which your ancestors hail, you will get a pretty good idea of what life looked like for them. Townlands were the basis of census returns from 1821. You should note that some of them no longer exist, and others in name only.
If you are confused, you are not the only one! Hopefully this short explanation helps. And as always, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Genealogy.ie has just been published for the second time in “Your Genealogy Today“, a leading genealogical magazine in North America.
“Your Genealogy Today” is a resource guide to successful genealogical research. Whether you are a beginner, or an experienced genealogist, each issue provides you with proven techniques and sources for discovering your ancestors. With regular columns on: “Genealogy Tourism”, “DNA & Your Genealogy”, and “Advice from the Pros”. In each case, the columns will be authored on a rotational basis by contributors who are experts in their respective fields. It is published six times a year.
It can be bought in Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million in the USA and Chapters book stores in Canada.
Our article in the January/February issue is about “Avoiding Common Mistakes”. It gives advice on how to prevent research errors by using the guidelines of the Genealogical Proof Standard, that we in Genealogy.ie rigorously adhere to.
This article joins a growing collection of contributions that Genealogy.ie is making to various magazines in North America and Ireland. You can read about the periodicals and download our articles from our website, by clicking the button below. (Note: our latest article is not available for download yet as it is only just published).
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We would like to wish you a very Happy Christmas and hope you will find lots more long lost family members in 2018.
TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
Family stories can be found in many places. Ever looked in that box in the attic with old films? Super8 films can now be converted to digital format, as we did with this short video, which was taken by a relation when she visited Bath in 1965. Included in this video is the front of 58 Hungerford Road, 3 Wellington Place and 19 Camden Place (all homes of ancestors). By 1966, 3 Wellington Place no longer existed as it had fallen away. Of course, in the film you will also see the Assembly Rooms, Bath Cathedral and life at that time.
PRAISE FROM DOWN UNDER
Finally, we just completed work for Michael, all the way from Queensland in Australia. We were very chuffed with his feedback, which we are quite happy to share with you.
“Your work is perfect Jillian, thanks very much. I’m so pleased I commissioned you to research my family, it saved me countless hours of fruitless searching. Your final report is so detailed, professionally presented and easy to read. I really wasn’t expecting so much, information. Well done and again thank you, it was well worth it.”
Do you have a family member or friend who is “bitten” by the family history “bug”?
Then they would really appreciate a voucher that will entitle them to get some professional help with their research.
Click on the picture below to go to our order page.
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The aim of the Kilmacud Stillorgan Local History Society is to promote and sustain an interest in our culture, heritage and history, particularly with regard to Kilmacud Stillorgan and the adjoining areas.
The twelfth edition of the Society’s annual journal, Obelisk, was launched to a packed audience in the Function Room, Glenalbyn, Stillorgan on 23 November. It’s stories help to give us a fuller picture of daily life and the streetscape of times past.
A full list of stories can be find below. For the third year running, our own Michael van Turnhout contributed to the journal with an article about a big house and its occupants over time.
To obtain a copy please send €10 (Overseas €13), to cover purchase price (€6), postage and packing to: Kilmacud Stillorgan Local History Society, 9 Marsham Court, Stillorgan, Co. Dublin
List of Articles in 2018 Obelisk
Mater Admirabilis Day Secondary School in the 1960s – ROSE MARY LOGUE
Francis Ledwidge: A Name in Sunshine – FRANK TRACY
Famine Heroes of Stillorgan – BRYAN MacMAHON
Herbert Hill, Dundrum – MARGARET SMITH
Field Marshal Viscount Gough (1779-1869) – VIVIEN IGOE
I Remember Victoria Cross, Cork – PHILIP CHAMBERS
Stillorgan to Adelaide and Back – MICHAEL FITZGERALD
A Building Life – MATT CAHILL
Blackrock 75 Years Ago – BRIAN Mac AONGUSA
All Hallows College and Stillorgan – PETER SOBOLEWSKI
I was Born on a Farm in Dublin 4 – SYLVESTER BYRNE
Valley of Thrushes – SILVIA DUNNE
Growing Up in Mount Merrion in the 1940s and 1950s – RORY WALSH
Gordonville, Dundrum – MICHAEL van TURNHOUT
A Renaissance Man on Newtownpark Avenue – AIDEN FEERICK
Margaret (1813-1882) – PAT SHERIDAN
The Rural District Council and the Unclimbable Fences – JAMES SCANNELL
Excursion to Ardagh and Strokestown – AIDEN FEERICK
Genealogy Day in Glenalbyn – EDDIE GAHAN
GAA President’s Award for John Sheridan – AISLINN HARKIN
Recent Publications by our Members
Tim Finn and the Easter Rising: A Sequel – BRYAN MacMAHON
Below you will find the 10 most popular Irish surnames, their crest and their meaning. If one of these is your family name, you are actually out of luck when it comes to family history research: there are so many Murphy’s, Kelly’s, O’Sullivan’s, etc. that is often very difficult to ascertain if a particular person in a genealogical record is your ancestor or just someone else with the same name! Your research will needs extra checks, additional proof, access to more sources, etc. Genealogy.ie is happy to assist.
Irish surname meaning "foreigner"; brought to to Ireland after Norman invasion. Most common in counties Mayo and Kilkenny.
Anglicized version of Irish personal name name Murchadh, which meant "sea-warrior" or "sea-battler"
Gaelic clan based in what is today County Cork and County Kerry. Before Anglo-Norman inviasion in County Tipperary.
Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Briain 'descendant of Brian', a personal name probably meaning 'eminence' or 'exalted one'.
Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Ceallaigh 'descendant of Ceallach' meaning 'bright-headed'
Anglicised from Irish 'Ó'Broin', meaning descendants of Bran, ("raven"). From Kildare, descendants of King of Leinster.
Anglicized form of Gaelic Mac Gobhann (Scottish) and Mac Gabhann (Irish) meaning 'son of the smith'.
Anglicised from Irish surname Ó Riain meaning "descendant of Rían", meaning "little king"
Anglicized form of Gaelic Ó Conchobhair 'descendant of Conchobhar', meaning 'lover of hounds'.
Anglicization of Gaelic Ua Néill, meaning descendant of Niall. Niall couild mean "cloud", "passionate" or "champion".
This is an article we wrote giving a snapshot of a 19th Century primary school – the type of school your Irish ancestors would have gone to. It was published in an edited from in “Your Genealogy Today”, a North American genealogy magazine.
In the 1901 and 1911 Irish Census records a note would be made if your ancestors could read and write or not. Most could, so clearly they had enjoyed some form of education. However, most children would come from poor, rural families and would be expected to work from an early age. So, how could they also go to school? How did they pay for it? What were these schools like?
Looking at school records, especially when combined with other local records, can answer a lot of these questions and give a great snapshot of how your ancestors would have spent their schooldays. They would have been quite different than ours! Thankfully, there are records available on a lot of schools in the National Archives of Ireland, because most if not all schools would have requested subsidies from the Department of Education at various times of their existence. Schools were looking for these subsidies because, although they were mostly opened and run on the basis of private initiative, they wouldn’t have been able to survive without government assistance.
To illustrate what you would be able to find out, the rest of this article is looking at a typical school, St. Mary’s National School in Sandyford, now a suburb of Dublin, then a small village some distance outside the city.
As was often the case, the initiative to open this school was taken by a member of the church. The parish of Sandyford was formed in 1829. Fr. Patrick Smyth became parish priest of the new Sandyford Church (as well as the nearby Glencullen Church). He was a big supporter of providing education to the poor, as will become clear below. Local land owner Daniel McKay, who owned the “Moreen” estate, was prevailed upon to give land towards a new school. Several fundraising drives followed. The school finally opened on 25th January 1841. On the 4th February 1842, Reverend Patrick Smyth wrote a report for the application for aid for his new school. In it he gave us a good description of how the school looked like and how it was run. The school was located in the Taney parish, Balally townland and Barony of Rathdown. It had its own purpose-built building, which had been constructed by private donation. It was constructed from limestone and had a slate roof. It was 60 foot long and 35 foot wide. It had two separate rooms, one for male pupils (35 foot by 20 foot) and one for female pupils (30 foot by 20 foot). There were also 4 small apartments for the teachers. In the “male” room, there were 11 desks and in the “female” room 7 plus a large table. Each room was said to be able to accommodate from 100 to 120 pupils! The principal was Cornelius O’Driscoll, who also taught in the Glencullen school. He was only 20 years old, but was described as ‘trained’. He was assisted by Jane Reilly, also 20 and trained at the Kildare Place Society (see box). Rev. Smyth considered Jane “infinitely well qualified for her duty, both from the beautiful specimens of needlework she showed me as well as from the clear and efficient manner she displayed in the examination of her pupils.” The teachers were paid £8 per year. This was also funded by charity, from a legacy, which earned £17-10 interest per year. Pupils also had to pay, 9p per week. All pupils were “from the poorer classes”. At the start they had 84 male pupils and 93 female pupils on the books. Average attendance however was 55 and 70 respectively.School hours were from 10 AM to 2 PM in winter and until 3 PM in summer, 5 days per week. The main books used were for teaching arithmetic, grammar and geography. There was also daily religious instruction from 2.30-3 PM and all day on Fridays!
As you can see, the records are a veritable treasure trove of information. From them we learn that the school day would be relatively short, leaving time for children to help their families. Despite this, absenteeism was high, likely for the same reason. Only a few topics would be taught, with religion taking a very large place in the curriculum. Conditions would be basic. Pupils would only pay a very small amount towards their education, which was the reason why schools would be raising funds, rely on charity and asking for subsidies. The above will hopefully give you an idea of how a typical school day looked like in 1842 in St. Mary’s. Thankfully much has changed in this particular school that still goes strong today. Who knows what the records will tell you about your ancestors’ school?
Department of Education (1842) Application for Grant by Reverend Patrick Smyth, National Archives of Ireland, Document Reference ED1/28/94/2
(1837) ‘True Liberality’, Freeman’s Journal,21 August, p. .
(14th March 2014) Kildare Place Society, Available at: http://www.worldhistory.biz/…/42265-kildare-place-society.h… (Accessed: 26th February 2016).
Ask About Ireland () Learning Zone Primary Students 5th & 6th – 1828,Available at: http://www.askaboutireland.ie/…/looking-…/19th-century/1828/ (Accessed: 12th March 2017).
Myles Dungan (9th September 2016) On This Day – 9 September 1831 – Irish National Education,Available at: https://mylesdungan.com/tag/kildare-place-society/ (Accessed: 12th March 2017).
Picture: Caledon School, Co Tyrone. Built 1907. Taken 2017. Author’s Collection.
Yesterday, we had a lovely visit to June Blake’s Garden in Blessington, Co. Wicklow. Even on a autumn’s day it was a sea of colour and life. Huge thanks to June and her son Dara for the very informative tour. You can find out more about June’s garden and the holiday rooms she has available to rent here: June Blake’s Garden.
Below you can enjoy our short video of our visit.
Genealogy.ie is a regular contributor to genealogical and local history magazines.
For the last few years we have been writing for local history magazine “Obelisk”. The next installment of this annual publication will be launched in November, the third year running with an article by us.
In addition we also have recently been published in North-American magazine “Your Genealogy Today”, with an article about Irish schools in the nineteenth century. And although we cannot yet reveal what the article is about, we will be in the next edition of this magazine as well!
At this very moment we are being published in “Internet Genealogy“, also aimed at the North American market. This article is about a very ‘niche’ database: ‘Legacies of British Slave-ownership’. The stories in it are fascinating though. The magazine is hitting the shelves just about now! Clicking on the picture below will bring you to their website.
At Genealogy.ie we love researching the family tree of our clients. One way of presenting the results is through art and we love the work of Irish artist Maggie Lyng of Stoneacre Studios. Maggie is running her cottage business in Trim, County Meath and you can find out more about her work at www.stoneacrestudios.com. She can be commissioned to paint bespoke personalised watercolour keepsakes for all occasions. Here is a wonderful example of a family tree she painted.
If you would like your family tree painted you can contact Maggie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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