Irish places

As Irish researchers, we are obsessed with place. What counties were my ancestors from? Where were they baptized? What townlands did they live in? In our drive to identify these places, we often overlook the place itself. Today, there are two wonderful sources that can help us learn more about the places where our ancestors lived – The Placenames Database of Ireland ( and

The Placenames Database of Ireland was created by Gaois, Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge at Dublin City University and The Placenames Branch of the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media of Ireland. This helpful database serves as a resource to not only locate the geographic location of places, but to also learn the original Irish names and their meanings. You can also listen to the names pronounced in Irish. But, most importantly, this site provides hierarchical jurisdictions. Understanding these jurisdictions, like the barony and civil parish, is necessary to accurately examine key record collections like Griffith’s Valuation. Be sure to check out the glossary of terms, archival records, and resources, too.

… records abutting townlands, sub townlands, and links to the 1901 and 1911 Irish Censuses, as well as Griffith’s Valuation. is another useful site that provides key information concerning Irish places. Linked with, records abutting townlands, sub townlands, and links to the 1901 and 1911 Irish Censuses, as well as Griffith’s Valuation. serves as a great tool for deciphering Irish place names, too. Often, I find myself attempting to decipher an Irish place name on a naturalization petition. is particularly helpful in this instance, as you can browse townlands by county, barony, civil parish, or electoral division and search for places with similar names.

I have so enjoyed hearing these place names spoken by native Irish speakers, as my ancestor would have spoken them so many years ago. Learning the history and evolution of each place name has been quite enlightening. Both of these sources have allowed me to rediscover places where my Irish ancestors lived, a surprisingly powerful experience.

About Sheilagh Doerfler

Sheilagh, a native of Chelmsford, Massachusetts, received her B.A. in History and Communication from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. Her research interests include New England, Norway, Sweden, Ireland, Westward Migration, and adoptions.

6 thoughts on “Irish places

  1. Another area that you may find information is the headstones of as predominantly Irish Catholic Cemetery. Found many headstones in a cemetery in Wyoming county NY. Apparently the early Irish immigrants were quite proud of the parish they came from and had the hometown as it were placed on the headstone

  2. I found my townland in the Placenames Database. How do we hear the pronounciation in Gaelic? I don’t see a link.

  3. My Irish ancestors came to America before the American Revolution. What are the records available for that time? Many are Ulster-Scots.

    1. Hi Marsha,

      Researching Scots-Irish ancestors can be very difficult. William Roulston’s Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors is a great place to start!

      Good luck,

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