It is likely if you’ve uncovered any information about your ancestor’s origins in Ireland it is the county. Here’s the bad news...no records were kept at the county level. That’s not to say that the county isn’t important. Since the Irish were not particularly creative with names of parishes and townlands, knowing the county may help you identify the correct location in Ireland. My Dalys, for example, were from Irishtown. There are twenty-seven townlands with Irishtown in their name located in twelve different counties (some counties with multiple Irishtowns...Meath has seven), and then there are those locations with the “unofficial” name of Irishtown that are not even listed. Many local names were lost after the surveys of the 1830s where the names were standardized. Until I was able to isolate the location to County Mayo (where Irishtown was unofficial) and obtain the additional information that there were relatives in Crumlin, I couldn’t find my Michael Daly. As it turned out, Daly was not a common name in Mayo and I was able to reconstruct the family from civil birth, death and marriage records.
Remember that King’s County is now Offaly and Queen’s County is now Laois. One other word of caution with counties...you might have information that your ancestor came from Cork. When asked the question of where they came from, the answer might have been the last place they were in Ireland, and many Irish emigrated from Queenstown in Cork. Always try to verify this with other information you’ve collected.
So what’s a barony? Baronies originally related to tribal divisions in Celtic Ireland, and over the years were sub-divided or combined. They were standardized in the 1500s and sometimes overlap parish and county borders. For genealogical purposes, they are used primarily when researching land survey records such as the Tithe Applotment and Griffith’s Valuation of the nineteenth century. They are no longer is use. Prior to the digitization of the Griffith’s records you needed to know the Barony in order to view the records either on microfilm, or in the bound books. I rarely worry about this division any longer as I use the online records at AskAboutIreland or FindMyPast to do my Griffith’s research.
As soon as I identify a townland, I always refer to the Alphabetical Index to the Townland and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland, the Townland Index or IrishAncestors and make a note of all of the Administrative Divisions. When asked in their new country, our ancestors may have used any of the administrative divisions to identify their place of birth in Ireland. By doing an exhaustive search and noting the various localities you can more easily identify a place in Ireland.
Next week I’ll discuss the Poor Law Union.
The blog is a few days early this week as I’m leaving on Sunday morning on the 2017 Genealogy Cruise. I don’t expect to have great Internet access during the week so if you don’t hear from me on Facebook or Twitter, that’s why!