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Currently, there are approximately 7,000 sources in the database. This list of sources is based on research carried out by the Placenames Branch.

History of the collection

This information was gathered over a long period of time. The Placenames Commission was founded in 1946 to examine the placenames of Ireland. Shortly after its foundation, the Commission initiated correspondence regarding the Irish versions of placenames. Members of the Commission had other duties aside from the study of placenames, and, as a result, the Placenames Branch was established on a full-time basis in 1956, as part of the Ordnance Survey. The Placenames Branch has been part of the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht since 1999.

The first major task given to the Placenames Branch was to determine the Irish names of the post offices of Ireland, in co-operation with the Placenames Commission. The historical information in relation to placenames was originally written on index cards, and scanned images of most of these cards, linked to the relevant placename, are available on During the course of this research, a wide range of historical works were consulted, along with 20th century publications in which Irish versions of placenames were recommended. The spellings recommended in such secondary sources were also added to the index cards. The following is a list of some of the books that were consulted during this process, as well as the abbreviations used to represent them on the index cards:

Another work which was consulted over the course of this research was an Irish language map of Ireland to the scale 1:500,000, published in 1938, the placenames for which were decided upon in co-operation with Fiachra Éilgeach and Fr Pól Breathnach. An image of this map is available here.

Many of the sources were taken from documents belonging to the Ordnance Survey (=OS), established in Ireland in 1824, especially the OS Parish Name Books (AL) as well as other documents developed by the OS like the Ordnance Survey Letters (LSO) and the ‘Memoranda’ (= Mem. SO). It is evident from this list of sources that many witnesses and informants were consulted, along with various documents, both historical and contemporary, during the work of the first Ordnance Survey, which was completed in 1846.

Also mentioned in the list of sources are the names of Irish language scholars who were employed by the OS to collect information in relation to placenames, such as John O’Donovan / Seán Ó Donnabháin (OD), Eugene (O’) Curry / Eoghan Ó Comhraí (EC), Thomas O’Conor / Tomás Ó Conchúir (OC) and Patrick O’Keefe / Pádraig Ó Caoimh (OK).

Apart from the Ordnance Survey sources, there are a wide range of different sources mentioned in this list which were consulted by staff of the Placenames Branch while carrying out research into Irish placenames, work which continues to this day, including books, articles in periodicals and other publications, dictionaries, maps, manuscripts etc.

A note regarding editorial work carried out on the collection

The methodology used by the Placenames Branch for the purpose of recording and presenting historical toponymic information has changed over time. These changes are apparent in the archive records which are linked to many of the placenames on the site, some of which are in the form of hand-written index cards, while some are in the form of typed A4 sheets, as well as the text records that are entered electronically in the database nowadays. Considering various different researchers collected material from the diverse range of sources in use at the Placenames Branch over a long period of time, the system of abbreviation was not consistent. In this electronic collection, efforts have been made to merge duplicates in cases where different abbreviations were used to reference the same work, and abbreviations have been regularised as much as possible.

A certain amount of editing work has been carried out by Fiontar & Scoil na Gaeilge on the collection, under the guidance of the Placenames Branch:

  • The main priority was to identify and merge as many duplicates as possible.
  • Along with other amendments, efforts have been made to explain some of the abbreviations which were without titles or explanatory texts.
  • In other instances, amendments have been made to titles or explanatory texts that were defective or inadequate.
  • A source type was also added to many sources (‘book’, ‘manuscript’ or ‘map’, for example) and in other cases, source types which had been added previously were corrected.

It is important to note however, that comprehensive editing has not yet been carried out on the collection, and that work is ongoing in this regard, for example:

  • Not all duplicates have been identified.
  • Nor have bilingual titles or explanatory texts been added to each source.
  • In some cases ‘foinse iompórtáilte’’ is given as a source type. This refers to a source that has been imported to the database but that has not yet been edited.
  • Thousands of sources relating to AL, comprise of references to informants who provided the OS with placename forms in the 1830s and 1840s, and it is often the case that only the initials and surname of the witness are provided in the primary source (AL). A small number of these witnesses have been identified, and the text ‘finné in AL’ added in such cases. See for example Mahoney, D.:AL. We hope to identify more such cases and determine the full names of such witnesses on an ongoing basis. The county relevant to the witness will also be provided where possible. The text ‘foinse in AL’ has been added to a number of other sources mentioned in AL, (Inq. G & M:AL, for example). We hope to provide more information in relation to these sources in due course.

Feedback and corrections will be welcomed (

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