IRELAND: Administrative Divisions

Ireland is a Republic, with its capital the city of Dublin.


PROVINCE:  There are four provinces in Ireland:

  1. Ulster is the ancient Irish province made up of nine counties, three of which are now in the Republic of Ireland (Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal) and six of which are in Northern Ireland (Antrim, Down, Armagh, Londonderry or Derry, Fermanagh and Tyrone).

2.  The province of Connaught (Connacht) lies in the West of Ireland with its coastline on the Atlantic Ocean. The counties of Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Galway and Roscommon are within its boundary. Connaught is the least inhabited province in Ireland with a population of just over 400,000.

3.  Munster is the southerly province of Ireland, consisting of the counties of Cork, Clare, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary and Waterford. With a total population of a little over one million, Munster houses fewer residents than that of County Dublin further north.

4. Leinster (Irish: Laighin or Laigin), one of the Provinces of Ireland, lies in the east of Ireland and comprises the counties of Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford and Wicklow. Leinster has the largest population of the four provinces of Ireland.

COUNTY – There are 32 counties in Ireland, varying greatly in size and population.

In 1922 when the Irish Free State was formed, six counties in Ulster voted to remain part of the United Kingdom, and form what is called Northern Ireland. These counties were: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry (Derry) and Tyrone. This area has the largest population of Protestant residents.  Northern Ireland does not include the three Ulster counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, which belong to the the Republic of Ireland, with the rest of the counties in the land.  Northern Ireland was the home of most Gillespies that immigrated abroad. during the Potato Famine of the mid 1800s.

BARONY – To the end of the 19th Century, counties were subdivided into baronies, although they were not used very much for administrative purposes, and thus figure little in the records revevant to genealogical research. There were about 325 baronies in the country.

POOR LAW UNION:  These were areas of the workhouses set up from the 1830s to try to deal with the most destitute. They became the bases of the registration districts used for state records of births, marriages, deaths.

CIVIL PARISH:  These were the original units of administration of the medieval church in Ireland, and were used right up to the end of the 19th Century for local and central government. These are extremely important for genealogy research.

TOWNLAND: The townland was and is the smallest officially recognized geographical unit in rural Ireland. They vary in size from a few acres to several thousand. There are more than 65,000 townlands records n the 1851 Townlands Index.  (“village”)