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County Laois (Irish: Contae Laoise) is a county in the Midlands of Ireland, in the province of Leinster. The county town is Portlaoise (previously Maryborough).
At various points in its history, the county was known as Laoighis; Leix or Queen's County.
Laois was part of the Kingdom of Ossory. As Christianity came to Ireland, religious communities were established in the county including St Canice, who founded Aghaboe Abbey and St. Mochua between 550 and 600 AD.
After 1150, the Roman Catholic Church began to assert authority over the independent Christian churches as the Normans seized control. From 1175 to 1325, the Normans controlled the best land in the county and the Gaelic people retreated to the bogs, forests and the Slieve Bloom Mountains. In the early 14th century, the Irish chieftains forced the Normans to leave. English warriors confiscated the lands of the O’Mores in 1548 and built “Campa,” known as the Fort of Leix, which is now Portlaoise. In 1556, it was known as Maryborough and the County was named Queen’s County after the English queen, Mary Tudor.
Because of continued attacks on the fort, the English cleared the counties of natives and brought in English settlers in 1556, the first plantation in Ireland. This was fiercely resisted by the native tribes and was only partially successful. In the 17th century, Cromwell’s army fought in Laois and the county became a refuge of outcasts and political refugees after Cromwell’s death. A group of Quakers settled in Mountmellick in 1659, while a Huguenot group founded refuge in Porarlington in 1666. The county was relatively peaceful, thereafter.
The Great Famine of 1845-49 followed by the crop failures in the 1860s and 1870s was a time when many of the poorest emigrated or died and brought increasing debt and tensions between the landlords and their tenants. From this a confederation of activists, framers, shopkeepers and clerics formed the Land League, which opposed the landlord system and pressed for tenants’ rights. This led to a Land War in the county from 1880 to 1881. Evicted tenants and other destitute people filled the workhouses. In 1881, the tenants and landlords formed a truce, the Land Act of 1881. When the Republic of Ireland was formed in 1922, the Celts, Vikings, Gaelic lords, Norman knights, monks, Huguenots, landlords and land league had all left their marks. The County was also given back its old name and Queen’s County became County Laois again.
In 1821, the County’s population was 34,275 and increased to 153,930 in 1841. During the Great Famine of 1845-1847, the population decreased until it was 111,664 in 1851. From 1880 to 1881, framers, shopkeepers and clerics formed the Land League, which opposed the landlord system and pressed for tenants’ rights and led to a Land War in the county. Evicted tenants and other destitute people filled the workhouses. In 1881, the tenants and landlords formed a truce, the Land Act of 1881.
When the Republic of Ireland was formed in 1922, the Celts, Vikings, Gaelic lords, Norman knights, monks, Huguenots, landlords and land league had all left their marks. The County was also given back its old name and Queen’s County became County Laois again. The population had decreased to 51,540 in 1926 and was 34,409 in 2006 .
County Laois is predominately Roman Catholic. In 1891, the percentage of Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist was 87.7%, 10.7%, 0.5% and 0.8%. Overtime, the Roman Catholics have decreased slightly to 89.4% in 2006, while the Church of Ireland, Presbyterians and Methodists decreased to 4.4%, 0.2% and 0.3%, respectively, with other or no religions increasing to about 4.4%.
General County Research Information
Further information about County Laois is available at the GenUKI site.
Civil Jurisdictions and Parish Research Information
- List of County Laois Parishes
- De Breffny, Brian. The Family of Odell or O'Dell. Article contains Genealogy of Odell family including pictures of thomas Bernard O'Dell with daughter Florence Barbara b.1885, Thomas Odell 1822-1891, Charles O'Dell 1864-1935, includes who went to India, U.S.A. West Indies & Canada. also Odell of Ballyhahill & Odellville, O'dell of Ogonelloe, Co. Clare, O'Dell of Moyanna, O'Dell of Listowel, Co. Kerry, O'Dell of Mahoonagh & Mondelligy Co. Limerick.covers 1535-1934 pages 114-144. Article found in The Irish Ancestor, vol.1,no.2 year 1969, Family History Library 941.5 B2i vol.1
- Begley, Donal. The Journal of an Irish Emigrant to Canada. The journal of Thomas Alexander Langford from Co. Leix , to Canada via New York, on the ship "New World" to join his Uncle Isaac. 1853. Article in The Irish Ancestor vol. VI.no.1.1974, pages 43-47. Family History Library Ref. 941.5 B2i v5-6.
- 1885 County Map: Courtesy of London Ancestor
Abstracts of Wills. Collection of Abstracts of Wills gathered from many sources, covering years 1654-1837. It includes Edward JACOB of Vickerstown, 19 Jan. 1685, proved Prerogative Court 26 June 1688. Also Thomas Jacob late of Ironmills dated 8 Sept. 1721, proved at Leighlin 29 Aub. 1723. Article found in The Irish Ancestor, vol.II, no.2, 1970 pages 117-127, Family History Ref. 941.5 B2i
To view a list of Laois web sites, visit FHLFavorites.info for some great sites.
- Laois (Queens) Resources and Help pages RootsChat Laois (Queens) Resources and Help pages. (Free).
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