A county is divided into baronies, baronies into parishes and parishes into subdivisions known as 'townlands'. In Limerick, we have the slightly complicating factor that the city of the same name is an independent local administrative unit distinct from the county within which it is situated. While your ancestor departed from the city, the county is relevant to the earler generation.

Baronies are no longer used, but need to be recognised in 19th century research. Grffith's Valuation (see below), for instance is organised by barony.

Parishes are of two kinds, civil and RC. Civil parishes (whose boundaries are preserved by Church of Ireland parishes) are very old and quite small; RC parishes, most of which date from late 18th century and early 19th century re-organisation, are much larger, sometimes incorporating more than one civil parish in whole or in part. Unlke the county, the four city parishes seem to have been co-terminous for civil, Church of Ireland and RC purposes.

Townlands are our basic rural subdivision, all those little areas you see marked on the enclosed 1" map of Newcastle West parish. As you can see, they vary qute a lot in size, some containing no more than one or two farms, others quite a number. They are not signposted and their baundaries are familiar only to people living locally. As subdivisions, they are to the rural areas what streets are to a town.

A new subdivsion introduced with the Poor Law after 1838, but not significant until after 1864, was the District Electoral Division (DED). Its relevance to this kind of research is mainly as the division according to which the 1901 census, and to a lesser extent civil registration of BMDs, was organised.

On to Sources.

Last revision: 2/28/97

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