Old Irish maps

Thanks to the  Gennies Downunder podcast, I recently came across the Down Survey of Ireland.  This wonderful website has maps of the Irish townlands from 1656 to 1658.

Left the Mercator map of 1570 and right the Down Survey map

Here is what the website says about itself:
Taken in the years 1656-1658, the Down Survey of Ireland is the first ever detailed land survey on a national scale anywhere in the world. The survey sought to measure all the land to be forfeited by the Catholic Irish in order to facilitate its redistribution to Merchant Adventurers and English soldiers. Copies of these maps have survived in dozens of libraries and archives throughout Ireland and Britain, as well as in the National Library of France. This Project has brought together for the first time in over 300 years all the surviving maps, digitised them and made them available as a public online resource.
The website is organised into two sections (see the tabs at the top of their home page)
  1. The Down Survey Maps with digital images of all the surviving Down Survey maps at parish, barony and county level. This includes written descriptions of each barony and parish that accompanied the original maps have also been included.
  2. The  Historical GIS, brings together the maps and related contemporaneous sources – Books of Survey and Distribution, the 1641 Depositions, the 1659 Census – in a Geographical Information System (GIS). All these sources have been georeferenced with 19th-century Ordnance Survey maps, Google Maps and satellite imagery. The Historical GIS enables you to search for the following three types of information: 
    • Landowner by Name (1641 and 1670)
    • Ownership by Religion (Maps for 1641 and 1670)
    • Murders in the 1641 rebellion.
I found the Historical GIS most informative, just play around with all the different settings, as they all give you different information.  For example:
Because I know my family's townland is Claughey, I was able to drill down  in the Historical GIS section and find out the land was owned in 1641 by the Randal Earl of Antrim Macdonnell, (Catholic) , but by 1670 had changed hands to  John Viscount Massereene Clotworthy,(Protestant).
So now I have two more people to research to put my history in context.

 The Down Survey Maps section is very useful and interesting as it gives information about the actual area, so definitely this is one to also explore.  It takes time, but if you have Irish ancestors, it will be worth it.

I  love this quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson, it does ring true.

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong.
There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right.
To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.


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