Placenames of County Longford


Placenames are a rich source of information on the physical features of a place and also in many cases on the inhabitants who lived there. As well as being an important research tool for local historians, teachers, students, geneologists, Longford placenames are an important local history resource for the Longford diaspora spread around the globe. The Ordnance Survey Field Name Books for County Longford are one of the most important primary resources available on Local Placenames. The 'field name books' for County Longford were compiled in 1836-'37. Longford County Library has a collection of typescript copies and the originals are now in the National Archives.

Background to Ordnance Survey field Name Books

In 1824, a British parliamentary committee recommended that the scientific mapping of Ireland should be undertaken to determine exact townland boundaries. Such a project would allow for an accurate valuation to be done in order to calculate rates payable on all properties. The Ordnance Survey had already been established in Britain in 1791, so it was decided to extend it to Ireland. The survey was placed under the jurisdiction of the army, as in Britain. Major Thomas Colby was the director in London and Lieutenant Thomas Larcom was appointed as his deputy with responsibility for Ireland.

The preparation of the survey involved fieldwork in every townland in Ireland. The survey was done by soldiers and included the measuring of boundaries, preparing of sketch maps and compiling of topographical descriptions. It was decided that the scale should be six inches to one mile to allow for the required level of detail.

A major aspect of the project was the collection of information on place-names, archaeological and historical sites, topography and local folklore. This was the responsibility of a team of antiquarians including John O'Donovan, Eugene O'Curry and George Petrie, who comprised the Topographical Department. The 'field name books' were submitted to that department and details such as the meaning of place-names were checked using various sources and the findings noted.

O'Donovan himself did fieldwork in each county and his letters, written to Ordnance Survey headquarters in the Phoenix Park, are an invaluable source in themselves

Sources and Abbreviations
Interpretation of the information in the Ordnance Survey Field Name Books
The 'field name books' were prepared according to townland and civil parish. The civil parish was the equivalent of the Church of Ireland parish and was used for official purposes because, prior to 1871, the Church of Ireland was the state or 'established' church.

Sources and Abbreviations

At the beginning of each parish or townland description, versions of the name are given from various sources. Generally, they are abbreviated.

A.F.M./Four Masters: The Annals of the Four Masters, compiled by four Franciscans in Donegal in 1632-'36.

B.S.S.M./B.S.S.: boundary survey sketch map (prepared during the survey).

County map/Edgeworth map: map of the county prepared by William Edgeworth and published in 1814.

Down Survey: the survey done under the direction of Sir William Petty, 1655-'59, to identify land for confiscation. Parish and barony maps were prepared to accompany the survey.

Educ. Report 1826/H. of C. Educ. Report: Second report of the Commissioners of Inquiry on Education in Ireland (1826), which listed the locations of schools.

Inq. Temp. Jac. I/Car. 1/Gul. & Mary: Chancery Inquisitions were authorised by the Court of Chancery. They described the extent of property held either by a deceased person whose lands were to revert to the crown, or one whose lands had been confiscated. They were common prior to the widespread use of maps. The inquisitions were mainly in Latin, and dated by reference to the year of the reign of the monarch. 'Jac. I' refers to James I (1603-1625), 'Car. I' to Charles I (1625-1649) and 'Gul. & Mary' to William III (1689-1702) and Mary II (1689-1694).

J. O'D.: John O'Donovan (1806-1861), antiquarian and Gaelic scholar, who contributed so much to the Ordnance Survey.

Ph.: parish.

Td.: townland.

Trig. stn.: trigonometrical station.

Also referred to in descriptions

Chain and link: units of measurement. A chain equalled 66 feet or 100 links. A link equalled 7.92 inches.

County cess: tax levied on property occupiers by the Grand Jury and used to fund the payment of county officials and the building and maintenance of infrastructure including roads.

Mearing/Mereing: a boundary between properties or townlands.


  • Ordnance Survey Placenames Online

       Ordnance Survey Maps Online   Longford library service provides free access from all library branches to Ireland's  archive of Ordnance Survey maps dating from 1829 1913. Visit.your local library where staff will be happy to connect you