Irish Roots

John Grenham

June 8th


One of the great pleasures of life is discovering how a tool designed for one purpose can be adapted for another. I have in mind Google maps (maps.google.com ).

For the great majority of places in Ireland, those outside cities and towns, the basic unit of address is still the townland. The data underlying Google maps is not from Ordnance Survey Ireland, but it does include everything required for a simple postal address. So almost all townlands are there, and can be pinpointed simply by entering the townland name followed by the county name in the map search-box. Since almost everyone in Ireland, or with Irish ancestors, is only a few generations removed from the land, a precise townland of origin is the holy grail of most research. With Google maps, you now stand a very good chance of being able to situate it exactly on a modern map, and then have a good look at houses, fields and gardens with the bird’s eye view.

There are some peculiarities. Most places in rural North Dublin have to be sought in a county called “Fingal”. Google baulks at the notion that there can be more than one place of the same name in a county, so you’ll find only one of the four Ballybegs in Mayo. Many places appear only under the Irish version of their name. For the six counties of Northern Ireland, the underlying data is taken from the UK Ordnance Survey, who seem to have been unable to cope with the idea of townlands at all. Ballyscullion in the 1851 Townlands Index is now Ballyscullion Road.

But sheer ease of use outweighs all of these quirks. Some of the murkiness of Irish research has been banished forever.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


Current column

2014

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
6
3
3
7
5
2
7
4
1
6
3
1
13
10
10
14
12
9
14
11
8
13
10
8
20
17
17
21
19
16
21
18
15
20
17
15
27
24
24
28
26
23
28
25
22
27
24
 
 
31
 
 
30
 
 
29


2013

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
7
4
4
1
6
3
1
5
2
7
4
2
14
11
11
8
13
10
8
12
9
14
11
9
21
18
18
15
20
17
15
19
16
21
18
16
28
25
25
22
27
 
22
26
23
28
25
23
 
 
 
29
 
 
29
 
30

 
30


2012

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
2
6
5
2
7
4
2
6
3
1
5
3
9
13
12
9
14
11
9
13
10
8
12
10
16
20
19
16
21
18
16
20
17
15
19
17
23
27
26
23
28
25
23
27
24
22
26
24
30
 
 
30
 
 
30
 
 
29
 
31


2011

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
3
7
7
4
2
6
4
1
5
3
7
5
10
14
14
11
9
13
11
8
12
10
14
12
17
21
21
18
16
20
18
15
19
17
21
19
24
28
28
25
23
27
25
22
26
24
28
26
31
 
 
 
30
 
 
29
 
31
 
 


2010

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
4
1
1
5
3
7
5
2
6
4
1
6
11
8
8
12
10
14
12
9
13
11
8
13
18
15
15
19
17
21
19
16
20
18
15
20
25
22
22
26
25
28
26
23
27
25
22
27
 
 
 
 
31
 
 
30
 
 
29
 


2009

Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec
6
2
2
6
4
1
6
3
7
5
2
7
13
9
9
13
11
8
13
10
14
12
9
14
20
16
16
20
18
15
20
17
21
19
16
21
27
23
23
27
25
22
27
24
28
26
23
28
 
 
 
 
 
29
 
31
 
 
30