A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland
by Brian Mitchell
(Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1986. 123 pages
Reviewed by Doris V. Cummins
When Brian Mitchell published his New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland in 1986, a sigh of relief went up for many family history researchers who were struggling to locate geographically their townlands discovered in The General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland (Alexander Thom, Dublin, reprint by Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1984). These books can be used in conjunction. Mitchells' book will identify the county, barony, parish and Poor Law Union of every townland in Ireland. There are 60,462 such townlands; therefore it is not within the scope of this book to map townlands.
The intention of the atlas is to locate the six major administrative divisions: counties, baronies, civil parishes, dioceses, Poor Law Unions and probate districts. All major record sources are organized by at least one of these divisions.
County: There are 32 counties in Ireland, which reflect the importance of the English system of local government. County boundaries reflected the lordships of major Gaelic families who owed their allegiance to provisional kings of Ulster, Connaught, Munster and Leinster, the four major provinces.
Barony: Now an obsolete division but in the 19th century widely used. Baronies and counties were established in government land surveys of the 17th century.
Poor Law Union: Under the Poor Relief Act of 1838 Ireland was divided into districts or "unions" in which the local taxable inhabitants were to be financially responsible for all paupers in the area. In 1898 the Poor Law Union was adopted as the basic administrative division in place of the civil parish and barony. Further subdivision into 828 registration districts and 3,751 district electoral divisions followed. Townlands were not arranged according to these divisions with parish and barony retained as a means to make comparisons with records gathered before 1898.
Civil Parish: From the 17th to mid-19th centuries civil parishes were based on early Christian and medieval monastic and church settlements. As the population grew, new parishes were created and the civil parish covered the same area as the established Church of Ireland. The Roman Catholic Church adapted to a new structure based on towns and villages. The 2,508 parishes depicted in the atlas are all CIVIL PARISHES, which frequently break both barony and county boundaries.
Diocese: In the 12th century three ecclesiastic synods imposed a diocesan organization of four provinces: Armagh, Cashel, Dublin and Tuam. The boundaries have remained virtually intact and are used by both Catholic and Anglican churches. Dioceses have little relation to county boundaries. It is the Church of Ireland dioceses as they existed in the mid-19th century that are mapped here. Until 1834 the dioceses were grouped into four provinces; the number was reduced to two: Armagh and Dublin.
Probate District: In 1858 a principal registry and eleven districts were established for the purpose of proving wills and granting administrations.
The Griffith's Valuation or Primary Valuation of Ireland; This survey came out under the direction of Sir Richard Griffith between 1848 and 1864 and is extremely important because of the absence of census records of the 19th century for most provinces in Ireland. Remnants survive for some parts, but the year 1901 is the first year for which a complete census return for all Ireland exists. The Griffith's is a comprehensive record that lists all property holders, no matter how insignificant the amount of land or size of house occupied. It may be the last official record of many emigrants.
Parish Register: Civil registration of births, deaths and Roman Catholic marriages began in 1864 in Ireland. Protestant marriages were registers from 1845. Before these dates, vital records will be found in parish registers. A major difficulty has been identifying which registers exist for each civil parish and their commencement dates. The Church of Ireland and Roman Catholic churches have a well-defined parish network. The Presbyterian Church doesn't have a parish structure as such. Congregations generally formed when there was sufficient demand from local Presbyterian families. The other Protestant dissenting denominations formed when there were enough like-minded people.
This book locates churches of all denominations including Roman Catholic parishes within their civil parishes in the middle decades of the 19th century and provides earliest commencement dates of their registers.
The book is organized by county, then alphabetically by civil parish within the county. Highly recommended.