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Placename categories

The country’s administrative structure

Administrative counties

Subdivisions of pre-established counties which were formed for administrative purposes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Baronies

Administrative units larger than civil parishes and originally established as the primary subdivision of counties by the British administration in Ireland.

“Irish baronies which were formed at the time of the Norman conquest were usually named either after Irish territories, … or from places which had been of importance in pre-Norman times… Irish baronies came into existence at different periods … The division of Ireland into counties and baronies was a process which continued down to the reign of James I… The original baronies in Ireland were the domains of the Norman barons; in the final stage of development they were divisions of counties created merely for greater convenience of administration. The word barony is of feudal origin, and was applied to a tenure of a baron, that is, of one who held his land by military service, either directly from the king, or from a superior feudal lord who exercised royal privileges… The origin of the Irish barony (a division of land corresponding to the English hundred) is to be found in the grants of lands which were made to the barons of Leinster and the barons of Meath.”
- Liam Price, ‘Ráith Oinn’, Éigse VII, lch. 186-7

Civil parishes

Administrative units larger than townlands and based on medieval ecclesiastical parishes. Civil parishes, modern Catholic parishes and Church of Ireland parishes may differ in extent and in nomenclature.

Counties

Administrative units larger than baronies and originally established by the British administration in Ireland between the twelfth and the seventeenth centuries. Some of these were subsequently subdivided into smaller administrative county units.

Electoral Divisions

Administrative units consisting of groups of townlands which were first formed in the nineteenth century. The term District Electoral Division was changed to Electoral Division in 1994.

Provinces

Four geographical divisions of Ireland. Historically there were five provinces.

Towns

1.    Every town listed by the Central Statistics Office, Ireland, in the 2006 Census (Vol. 1 – Population Classified by Area), both towns with legally defined boundaries and census towns1 (ibid. 163).

2.    Every settlement in Northern Ireland which is classified according to population (size) into the following categories in the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) report (Report on settlement service classification, November 2006, Appendix 1 pg. 17): big town, small town, medium town, intermediate settlement.

1 Towns without legally defined boundaries are called “census towns”.

Townlands

The smallest land units which were determined and established in the Irish administrative system in the first half of the nineteenth century. Many of the townlands were in existence prior to that.