About The MunsterGenWeb Project
Welcome to Province Munster.
Anciently Mumhan, South Munster, was called 'Desmond'.
Divisions and Records:
Before Ireland history was recorded there were territorial lines. Ancient kingdoms became provinces and provinces sub-divided by petty kings counties; counties under the Normans were carved up into Baronies.
Christianity brought new boundaries to Ireland, Archdiocese ( province ), diocese ( county ), and inside the diocese were formed parishes.
To complicate matters, Civil authority formed other boundaries, civil parishes and the smallest civil division, the townland. The only boundaries generally smaller than townlands usually defined private property, but some farm estates encompassed one or more townlands. Smaller townlands may have contained two or three houses, or one small farm.
For the researcher the two most important boundaries are the county and the townland, followed by diocese, parish, even the exact church were the records are kept.
Over time those boundaries moved, and records may not be where one might expect to find them. Records may cover more than one townland, parish, barony, county, or even province. References to such records as provided by readers will in due time be listed on this site.
About This Project: Divisions: Before Ireland history was recorded there were territorial lines. In time ancient kingdoms became provinces; provinces were carved up by war chiefs into counties, counties under the Normans were carved up into Baronies. Christianity brought new boundaries to Ireland, Archdiocese generally corresponding to province and diocese generally corresponding to county; and inside the county, church parishes were formed. But to complicate things, Civil authority brought other boundaries, civil parishes and townlands. The smallest civil unit is the townland. Only boundaries smaller than townlands were private property and farms....... But even that generalization did not hold, because some farm-estates grew to encompass several townlands. and in smaller townlands there may have been only three houses, or one small farm. This is all very confusing, BUT for the researcher the two most important boundaries are the county and the townland, followed closely by the diocese, and the exact church were the records are kept.
Purpose of this website
Understanding administrative Divisions
To successfully search for records in Munster, you should become familiar with the following terms. Such administrative units will be important to your search, but your ultimate goal is to find the townland where your ancestors lived. If you know the name of a place and do not know whether it is a parish or a townland, or want to know what district a townland is in, try
I. Civil Divisions
Townland -- Is the smallest unit of land area. Townlands vary from less than ten acres, to thousands. There are about 64,000 townlands in Ireland. If you have the name of a townland, and want to know what parish it is in, then use the searchable data base at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) site.
Go to the PRONI page, click on Geographical Index, click on Townlands, and scroll down to the Alphabetical Index.
Waterford = 1,710 Townlands
Tipparary = 3,308 Townlands
Limerick = 2,131 Townlands
Kerry = 2,802 Townlands
Cork = 5,749 Townlands
Clare = 2,290 Townlands
Munster = 17,990 Townlands
It helps to know which townland you are looking for.
Civil Parish -- The next level up is the civil parish, which usually contains about twenty-five to thirty townlands, as well as towns and villages. There are about 2,500 civil parishes.
Barony -- A barony is an old administrative unit (now obsolete), consisting of several civil parishes. There are 273 baronies in Ireland. Fermanagh has eight: Magheraboy, Clanawley, Knockninny, Coole East, Clankelly, Magherasteffany, Tirkennedy, and Lurg. The baronies of Ulster were set up at the time of the Ulster Plantation, in the early 1600s. See also John Cunningham's commentary on the barony names of County Fermanagh at the Letters of John O' Donovan.
Provinces -- There are four in Ireland; Connaught, Leinster, Munster, and Ulster. Of the 9 counties which make up Ulster, 6 are in Northern Ireland and 3 (Donegal, Monaghan, and Cavan) are in the Irish Republic.
Cities, Towns, Boroughs, and Wards -- These are separate administrative areas of varying size. Many have several civil parishes, some civil parishes have several townships. Cities may also have boroughs and wards.
Poor Law Unions -- There were set up in 1838, originally to help look after the poor. They usually encompass an area of about a ten-mile radius around a local town, where the poorhouse was located. Rates (land-based taxes) were collected in these areas to maintain the poor. They don't always conform to county boundaries. These districts later became General Registrar's Districts.
General Registrar's Districts -- These are the areas where births, deaths, and marriages were compiled. Even today, these records are kept at the district level.
II. Ecclesiastical Divisions
Church Parish -- This is the area a minister or parish priest serves. Boundaries of Church of Ireland parishes are usually the same as the civil parish boundaries. Roman Catholic boundaries generally are larger.
Diocese -- Parishes are organized into dioceses, with a bishop. The dioceses contain a certain number of church parishes and do not conform to county boundaries. The Diocese of Clogher, for instance, contains most of Fermanagh, all of Monaghan, parts of Donegal, Tyrone, and even a small piece of Louth.
Irish Administrative divisions
Province: There are four provinces in Ireland, Ulster (9 counties), Connacht (5 counties), Munster (6 counties) and Leinster (12 counties).
County: The County is the principal unit of local Government. There are 32 counties in Ireland, 26 in the Republic of Ireland and 6 in Northern Ireland, varying greatly in size and population. Generally speaking, they are much larger and more populous than American counties. The counties exists as follows:
Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh, Monaghan, Tyrone.
Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo
Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Waterford.
Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford, Wicklow
Barony: A Barony is an important county subdivision. It is thought to be a Norman division although it's precise origin is unknown. There are generally between seven and ten baronies per county although Cork has twenty and Louth has only four. A barony can occupy parts of two counties in which case it is referred to as half a barony. There are 331 baronies in Ireland. Up to the end of the nineteenth century, counties were subdivided into baronies, although they were not much used for administrative purposes and thus figure little in the records relevant to genealogical research. There were about 325 baronies in the country.
Poor Law Union: The Poor Law Act of 1838 introduced another administrative division - The Poor Law Union. Initially there were 130 and eventually 163 Poor Law Unions. Between 1838 and 1852, 163 workhouses were built throughout the country, each at the centre of an area known as a Poor Law Union. The workhouses were normally situated in a large market town, and the Poor Law Union comprised the town and its catchment area, with the result that the Unions in many cases ignored the existing boundaries of parish and county. The workhouse in the town provided relief for the unemployed and destitute,
generally under very harsh conditions. Records were kept of the inmates and these can provide useful research material. These were the catchment areas of the workhouses set up from the 1830s on to try to deal with the most destitute. They became the bases of the registration districts used for state records of births, marriages and deaths.
Civil Parish: There are 2508 Civil Parishes in Ireland. They were originally ecclesiastical divisions and they often break both county and barony, boundaries. They became important civil divisions in their own right. Civil parishes were the original units of administration of the medieval church in Ireland and were used right up to the end of the nineteenth century for local and central government. Because of this, they are extremely important for Irish genealogy, providing, for example, the only means of connecting a placename to the Roman Catholic records which cover it. Gen.ie uses the civil parish to connect localities to the records which relate to them.
Townland: There are 60,462 townlands in Ireland (65,000 recorded in the 1851 Townlands Index). It is the smallest administrative division (i.e. smallest officially recognized geographical unit in rural Ireland) and on average covers about 350 acres (varying in size from a few acres to several thousand). Many Townlands share the same name - for example there are 56 Kilmores and 47 Dromores.
Dispensary District: Poor Law Unions were subdivided into dispensary districts following the 1851 Medical Charities Act.
Superintendent Registrar's District: Poor Law Unions became known as Superintendent Registrar's districts in order to record births, marriages and deaths as a result of the 1863 Acts for the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Registrar's District: Dispensary Districts became known as Registrar's districts in order to record births, deaths and marriages as a result of the 1863 Acts for the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
Diocese: This is a large ecclesiastical division. There are 22 dioceses which in turn form part of 4 archdioceses. These are similar to the four provinces of Ireland.
Parish: A diocese is subdivided into parishes. Parishes are usually composed of the aforementioned civil parishes. However, modern Catholic parishes do not follow this general rule.