A few basic explanations of terms you will come across in researching in Ulster.


The townland is a physical piece of land and is the most important unit of measure and description that is found in Ireland, Each Parish has within it anything from 10 to over 200 townlands. There are 60,462 townlands in all Ireland. The `Townland` vary in size from about 15 to about 3000 acres. and frequently got its name from some local characteristic, a hill, a bog, a church, etc It was the administrative unit until 1898 and, as such, it was the basis for tithes, taxes, census, Griffiths Valuation etc. Knowing the parish allows the researcher to focus then on the smaller unit. The townland was used in much the same way that today we use post codes or zip codes. It was used in official and documents - leases, deeds, wills, muster rolls, tax schedules, Griffiths Valuation; Ordinance Survey Memoirs etc as the location of the person concerned. Knowing the townland means that you can literally go to the place where your ancestors trod.

Civil Parish

These are important units for record purposes. They generally contain around twenty-five to thirty townlands as well as towns and villages. There are around 2,500 civil parishes in the country. Parishes are generally listed within each county although they may also be divided by barony. In many cases civil parishes straddle county and barony boundaries. Parishes in Ulster.


A barony is a portion of a county or a group of parishes. Historically it was introduced by the Anglo-Normans and is usually based on a tribal territory or "tuatha". Barony boundaries do not always conform to those of the civil parishes within them. There are 273 baronies in Ireland.


The county is a major and consistent division of land. The counties were gradually established by the English since the arrival of the Normans. The first counties - Dublin, Kildare and Louth - were established in the early 13th Century, whereas the last counties, those of Ulster, were not established until after 1600. There are thirty-two counties and these are formed into four Provinces.


The four Provinces of Ireland are Connaught, Leinster, Munster and Ulster. Each comprises a number of counties.The Orrs are almost exclusively found in the ancient Province of Ulster which was made up of the 9 counties of: Armagh; Antrim ; Cavan ; Donegal ; Down ; Fermanagh ; Londonderry ; Monaghan; and Tyrone. This use of Ulster should not be confused with the Northern Ireland of today which is part of the UK and only six of the nine counties - Armagh; Antrim ; Down ; Fermanagh; Londonderry ; and Tyrone

Poor Law

Under the Irish Poor Law Act of 1838 commissioners were empowered to "unite so many townlands as they think fit to be a union for the relief of the destitute poor". A Union was a group of parishes usually centred on a market town, where a workhouse might be built, with parishes and townlands as subdivisions. Rates, land based taxes, were collected within these areas for maintenance to the poor. They were named after a large town. The same districts later became used as General Register Districts.

Schedule of PLUs.


Orr Name Study Ulster Scots Reference material