The maps that form the Past Homes collection are the First Edition 6 inch scale Ordnance Survey maps of Ireland,
surveyed between 1829 and 1843 - also known as the "Townland maps".
Those involved in Irish genealogy regard them as the most important maps ever produced as they were the
first maps to accurately show the boundaries and names of all the Townlands,
Parishes and Baronies
As well as genealogists, the maps are of great interest to anyone of Irish descent or who have a connection with
Ireland, as they invoke memories of places once visited and show how an area has changed over time.
Past Homes have scanned the
original historical documents in full colour and at a high resolution so that our map images are as
faithful a reproduction of the originals as possible.
The 6 inch maps were originally published on over 1,900 individual map sheets covering the whole of Ireland. This has
meant that identifying a map sheet or sheets covering a particular area of interest has been difficult, especially when
the area of interest spans one or more map sheets. Past Homes have scanned, cropped, geo-referenced and digitally stitched
the maps together to create seamless mapping layers for each of the 32 Irish counties.
The Past Homes collection means that for the first time full colour site-centred seamless historical maps of
Ireland are available to the public. This unique service allows far easier access to the wealth of knowledge stored
in these beautiful documents.
The collection also includes the Index to the Townland Survey County maps (or County Index maps) which were produced at the
same time as the 6 inch maps. Ranging in scale from 1.5 to 3 miles to the inch, each county is mapped in its entirety and is
overlaid with a numbered grid representing the extents and geographical coverage of each 6 inch sheet for that county.
Each County Index map also contains other valuable information such as a legend to the writings, characteristics and topographical
references shown on the 6 inch maps. Some Index maps also show municipal borough and parliamentary boundary diagrams in their margins.
They are highly detailed and decorative, showing all Barony and Parish boundaries and names and they have become very valuable and important
maps in their own right.
The maps in the Past Homes collection were originally published between 1833 and 1846, just prior to the great famine.
They provide an unprecedented insight into life at the time by capturing the physical characteristics of Ireland during
a period of great upheaval, hardship and mass emigration. However, the reason for the maps being produced is not quite
so dramatic, as taxation was the driving force behind their creation.
History of the Maps
By the early 19th century it was becoming apparent to the British Parliament that Irelandís local taxation system,
the "County Cess", was outdated and unusable. The County Cess was based on ancient land units known as Townlands
which had for centuries provided the framework for society throughout Ireland and was how local community delimited
and identified itself. The main problem was that whilst the names and limits of the Townlands
were reasonably well known, the accurate acreage and subsequently the rateable value were uncertain.
In 1824 the director of the Ordnance Survey (OS), Lt Col Thomas Colby, was authorised by the British Parliament to
undertake a survey of all of Ireland at a scale of 6 inches to 1 statute mile as part of planned reforms to Irelandís
taxation system. Such a detailed nationwide mapping survey had never been attempted anywhere in the world before.
Although the OS was tasked with
accurately surveying the country, including the Townlands,
in 1825 a new Government boundary department was created under the direction of Richard Griffith. Their job was to ascertain and sketch
all Townland, Parish,
Barony and County boundaries ahead of the main OS surveyors who would follow up by surveying the boundaries and then accurately measure the acreages.
Work commenced in the north of the country and progressed south with each county in turn being surveyed, drawn,
engraved and published. The time taken between the survey of a county being completed and it being published was
normally around 3 years.
Many technical advances and innovations were developed during the 6 inch survey of Ireland as it was the first time
an entire country had been mapped at such a large scale. These advances and the quality of the copper plate engraving
meant that when the maps were published between 1833 and 1846, they were arguably the most detailed, accurate and
beautiful ever produced.
The Griffith's Valuation
Using the output from the mapping survey, Richard Griffith went on to oversee the Primary Valuation of Tenements,
carried out between 1847 and 1864, which determined not just the value but also the occupiers of all lands and buildings.
The results were collated into the General Valuation of Rateable Property in Ireland, more commonly known as the Griffithís
Valuation. This valuation, directly linked to the 6 inch maps, has become an invaluable resource to historians and
genealogists in searching for Irish ancestors and finding out how they lived.