Maps are helpful in locating the places where your ancestor lived. They help you identify neighboring towns, parishes, and geographic features. They can help you locate parish churches. They can show the transportation routes that your ancestor could have used in moving.
Maps may be published separately or in bound collections called atlases. Maps may also be found in gazetteers, guidebooks, local histories, directories, and history texts.
Different types of maps provide different types of information. Historical maps describe economic growth and development, boundary changes, migration and settlement patterns, military campaigns, transportation developments, effects of plagues, and other historical information. Road maps provide information on highways, rivers, and town sizes. Other types of maps include parish, county, topographical, enclosure, civil district, church diocesan, and many more highly specialized maps.
See the Ireland Map from Research Guidance.
City and street maps are extremely useful when researching in the records of large cities. Locating an ancestor's address on a city or street map may help you determine which parish to search.
The major source of Irish topographical maps in the 19th century is the Ordnance Survey, which covered all of England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. The creation of the Irish Ordnance Suvey maps was commenced in 1829 and completed in 1858 producing 205 sheets and an index in a series of 1 inch, 6 inches, and 25 inches to the mile. The series has been revised and published at different times. Ordnance Survey maps of greater detail (up to 10 feet to the mile) have been produced for most Irish cities.
The significance of the Ordnance Survey Maps cannot be overstated. It was the first complete survey of Ireland since William Petty's survey in the 17th century (1657) to create Hiberniae Delineatio, the first atlas of Ireland.
The following work explains the history and details of the Ordnance Survey maps:
Harley, J. B. Ordnance Survey Maps: A Descriptive Manual. Southampton: Ordnance Survey, 1975. (Family History Library book 942 E3osa.)
Maps must be used carefully because:
- Several places often share the same name. For example, more than seventy localities in Ireland are named Kilmore.
- The place-name on the map may not be spelled as expected.
- Parish boundaries are seldom indicated, so you cannot assume that a locality lies within a certain parish unless the map specifically shows that it does.
Finding the Specific Place on the Map
To be most effective in researching your Irish ancestor, you must identify the place in Ireland where your ancestor lived. Search gazetteers, histories, family records, and other sources to learn all you can about the place where your ancestor lived, including:
- The parish and county the place was in.
- The civil district your ancestor's parish was in (if your ancestor lived in the place after 1864).
- The name of the church where your ancestor was baptized or married.
- The names of other townlands in the parish.
- The names of nearby places, especially large cities.
- The names of places where related ancestors lived.
- Nearby geographical features, such as rivers and mountains.
This information will help you distinguish the place you are searching from other places of the same name.
See Ireland Gazetteers for additional information on locating places.
Finding Maps and Atlases
Collections of maps and atlases are available at numerous historical societies, county record offices, and public and university libraries. Major map collections in Ireland are housed at the Ordinance Survey Office.
The National Archives in England has added Early Irish maps from State Papers c.1558 - c.1610 to their DocumentsOnline Web site. Mainly for the province of Ulster, the maps can be searched for by place, and new or old catalog reference.
Websites with online maps for Ireland, serving various purposes, include:
- www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/browse -- has both civil parish maps and Roman Catholic parish maps.
- www.osi.ie -- the website of the Ordnance Survey Office of Ireland, has a free, interactive, viewable map.
Publications that can help you locate maps
- Rural and City Maps. Typescript. Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1985. (Family History Library book Reg 942 E73c) This source lists British city maps found in the library's collection but not cited separately in the catalog.
- Watt, Ian, comp. A Directory of U. K. Map Collections. 2d ed. London, England: McCarta, [1985?]. (Family History Library book Ref 942 E74w.) This source briefly describes the various British map repositories (including county record offices), their holdings, hours, and copying facilities.
You may purchase maps of Ireland through your local bookstore or from the following offices:
Ordnance Survey Office
Ordnance Survey Office
Belfast BT9 5BJ
John Bartholomew & Sons, Ltd.
12 Duncan Street
Edinburgh EH9 1TA
A wide variety of Irish maps and atlases exist. Check your local library's Irish map collection or find some online.
- Atlas to the Topographical Dictionary of IrelandComprising a General Map of Ireland'.This atlas includes maps for the counties of Ireland as they existed in 1849.
- A Genealogical Atlas of Ireland Gardner, David E., Derek Harland, and Frank Smith, comps.
- Ireland, Ordnance Survey. Irish Townland Survey, Scale 1:10,560. Ottawa, Canada: Ottawa Public Archives of Canada, 198-. (Family History Library fiche 6341635-66.) These maps are divided by county and include a grid map for each county and are not available for circulation.
- Irish Townland Maps. Londonderry: Inner City Trust, 1989. (Family History Library fiche 6342438-53, 6343060-70.) Arranged by county, these maps show all Irish townlands within their respective parishes. Not every county is represented in this series.
- Irish County Maps Showing the Location of Churches. 4 vols. (One for each of the provinces of Munster, Leinster, Connaught, and Ulster.) Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1976-77. (Family History Library book Ref 929.1 G286gs ser. A no. 54-57 1976-77; fiche 6020286 (Munster) 6020301 (Ulster) 6020302 (Leinster), 6020303 (Connaught). This set of county maps marks the locations of churches in Ireland.
- Mitchell, Brian. The New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1986. (Family History Library book Ref 941.5 E7m.) This book contains maps for each Irish county. The maps show civil parishes, baronies, and poor law unions.