Derry Place Names List
This is a list of 1,750 placenames as recorded in the 1901 census returns for the city and county of Londonderry (also known as Derry). It includes the names of all townlands, together with street listings for all towns, in County Derry. Correct placename location – by District Electoral Division, Parish, Registrar District, Poor law Union and Estate – will result in more effective use of major Irish record sources such as 1901 and 1911 census returns, church registers, civil registers of births, marriages and deaths, the national indexes to civil birth, marriage and death registers, and estate records.
Against each placename, i.e. townland or town and street, is recorded the following information:
|This District Electoral Division reference number enables researchers to access original and/or microfilm copy of 1901 and 1911 census returns for that townland or street in record offices which hold census returns.
|The 1901 and 1911 census returns were gathered by District Electoral Division. All placenames in County Derry were grouped into 83 District Electoral Divisions. Tip to Researchers – if you wish to examine families of interest in the vicinity of a townland of interest you should enter this name in ‘DED’ field when searching 1901 or 1911 census returns at www.census.nationalarchives.ie.
|Many record sources of value, both civil and church, to family historians were compiled and recorded by parish. By mid-19th century, County Derry was subdivided into 46 civil parishes. Tip to Researchers – by using A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland (2nd edition, Brian Mitchell, Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 2002) civil parish locations, can be translated into Church of Ireland parishes, Roman Catholic parishes and Presbyterian Congregations.
|Civil registration of births, deaths and Roman Catholic marriages in Ireland began on 1st January 1864 while non-Catholic marriages were subject to registration from 1st April 1845. For the purpose of civil registration, County Derry was divided into 24 local registrar districts, which were grouped into 4 poor law unions. Books recording births, marriages and deaths were kept in each local registrar district, and a consolidated name index, within each poor law union, was then compiled at national level.
|Poor Law Union
|County Derry was served by four poor law unions: Londonderry, Limavady (originally known as Newtownlimavady), Coleraine and Magherafelt. These districts, centred on a large market town, were created in 1838 for the financial support of the poor. Poor law unions were subdivided into Registration Districts (to gather civil birth, marriage and death details) which in turn were further subdivided into District Electoral Divisions (to gather census returns). Tip to Researchers – in the national indexes to civil birth, marriage and death registers the only clue to an address is the name of the Superintendent Registrar’s District in which an event was registered. The Superintendent Registrar’s District equates to the area served by the Poor Law Union.
|17th Century Landowner
|In 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, until they were finally broken up in the latter years of the 19th century under the Land Acts, the majority of the population of Ireland lived on large estates. The administration of these estates by landlords and their agents produced a large quantity of records, including maps, rentals, account books, leases, title deeds, surveys and other such matters. For example, rent rolls which list tenants on individual estates are a useful source of genealogical information. With the establishment of County Londonderry from 1613 the major landowners were the Church of Ireland and the Bishop of Derry; Sir Thomas Phillips, who first came to Ireland in 1599 with the English army; the twelve principal livery companies of the City of London, namely Clothworkers, Drapers, Fishmongers, Goldsmiths, Grocers, Haberdashers, Ironmongers, Mercers, Merchant Taylors, Salters, Skinners and Vintners; and the Irish Society, a company set up by the city of London to oversee the Plantation of Londonderry. Landownership evolved over time as freeholds were granted and as landlords sub-let or sold their estates to middlemen. The ‘Immediate Lessors’ column in Griffith’s Valuation, at www.askaboutireland.ie/griffith-valuation, provides insight into landownership in the middle years of the 19th century. Tip to Researchers – once you know the name of your ancestor’s landlord your next step will be to determine where the landowner’s estate papers are deposited or if they are retained by the family. For example, estate papers for County Derry held in Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (www.proni.gov.uk) are listed, with description and reference details, in PRONI’s Guide to Landed Estate Records.
If you can’t find a placename you are looking for, there are two major reasons for this:
- The place name you seek is spelt differently to the ‘official’ spelling. It is only in comparatively recent times, i.e. from mid-19th century, that attempts have been made to standardise the spelling of Irish placenames.
Inconsistency in spelling of place names (and surnames) is well known to those who have conducted research into their Irish family history. An ‘official’ and standardised recording of townland names for all Ireland was established, by 1842, by the Ordnance Survey and published in maps at 6” to 1 mile and in the Townland Index.
Place names, originally in Gaelic, were anglicised from the 17th century, by settlers with little knowledge of the Irish language. This resulted in a number of different spellings of the same place name. For example, in Clondermot Parish, County Derry, the townland which was standardised as Coolkeeragh in the Townland Index was recorded as Killkeeraugh in the 1831 census and as Culkeeragh in the Tithe Book of 1834.
- Although the townland is the smallest and most ancient of Irish land divisions – there are 60,462 townlands in Ireland – and is effectively equated with identification of the ancestral home, it is quite possible that the place name you seek is even more localised than a townland name.
For example, Seoirse Ó Dochartaigh, a Gaelic-speaking musician, artist and genealogist of Mossyglen, Carndonagh (in Inis Eoghain: The Island of Eoghan: The Place-Names of Inishowen, published 2011) has identified 452 place names (many of them not recorded on any map) within the 30 ‘official’ townlands and one island that make up the civil parish of Clonmany, County Donegal!