Ireland is sub-divided in a unique way; provinces into counties, counties
into baronies, baronies into parishes, and parishes into townlands.
The townland is a unique feature of the Irish landscape and
is one of the most ancient divisions in the country. The origins of the townland remains obscure but they are undoubtedly
of great antiquity. They existed long before the parishes and counties and were eventually written down in anglicised form
as they sounded to English court scribes.
Townlands orginally consisted of a number of sub-divisions such as
gneeves and ploughlands but they are now recognised as the smallest administrative division in the country. There are more
than 64,000 townlands in Ireland (9700 in Ulster) and great variations are evident in townland sizes due to the fact that
their shapes and sizes are related to local topography and farming practices.
Loosely related to the ancient Gaelic "Bally betagh", and to other
medieval land divisions such as ploughlands and quarters, townlands can vary enormously in size, from a single acre or less to several thousand acres.
They were used as the smallest geographical unit in both Tithe Survey
and Griffith's, as well as census returns, and are still in use today. Anything from 5 to 30 townlands may be grouped together
to form a civil parish. Most Roman Catholic parishes cover parts of more than one
The townland name may originally
have referred to an easily identifiable feature of the landscape or a botanical feature such as Rocktown Townland
of the Rock, Mullaghboy Yellow hilltop, Killyberry Wood of the place of the stakes/spits,
Broagh Bank/brink and Drumlamph Ridge of the marsh-mallows/elm trees
The social customs or history of the people who have lived in a particular
place can also be reflected in the name of the townland. Often these names are the only records which survive of the families
who held the land in pre-plantation times. Bally or Baile (both meaning settlement) are usually compounded with personal or
family names and examples can be found all over Ireland including such names as Ballymacpeake Macpeakes townland,
and Tamniaran OHerrerans field
Many townlands throughout Ireland took their names from early habitation
sites, both ecclesiastical and secular, and these include Rath (meaning fortification), Dun (meaning fort) or Chill (meaning
church). It is unclear where Lemnaroy The red horses leap got its name.
If you are searching for your family anywhere in Ireland, knowing the Townland
they came from is one of the best ways of tracing them. Knowing the Barony, Parish, etc will also be of great help to you,
since many townlands share the same name - for example there are 47 Townlands named Dromore and 56 Kilmores.
To find which Civil Parish, Barony, Province etc a Townland is in, visit