Researching history: Three indispensible tools

There are three vital tools for local historical research which are freely available free online. But first, the townland (an baile fearainn) has been the basic unit of local administration for nearly a thousand years and you need to learn the townland names in  your area of interest. Be aware that townland names have changed spelling over the years.

  1. Original Ordnance Survey (OSI) maps 1834-36

Geohive is the OSI mapviewer. Go to

At top left click on  Base Information and Mapping and box-tick Historic Map 6-Inch Colour. On the map of Ireland place your cursor roughly on South Armagh and double-click so the map enlarges or shifts to a different version. It takes ten double-clicks, moving through various historical maps before you come to one like the map below. The thick pink/red line is the townland boundary.


  1. Griffiths Valuation maps and lists

When  the basic mapping of the country was completed (mainly by soldiers, commanded by gunnery officers who were trained in trigonometry, an essential technique for firing cannon, hence the ordnance in the title) it was used for taxation. Over a 20-year period the land and farm-holdings were valued for rates and this required farm boundaries and even field boundaries to be drawn onto the maps. New features such as railways were also drawn in.

Go to


Click on Griffiths Places and when prompted for a placename type in Drumintee (note spelling). Click on Armagh in the county list (ignore parish, barony etc.) and click Search. When the new display comes up click on Map Views (larger icon) on the right and a map will open in a new window. Again place your cursor roughly on your area of interest and start double-licking through a series of enlargements until you get a map like the one below. Our area was competed in 1864 and we can see that Drumintee got a National School, in the corner of the graveyard.

On your URL line click again on Griffiths Valuation and open up Occupants, Original Page and look for the name of your townland on the facsimile of the original Valuation Register, in this case Drumintee. Use Next Page at the top to click through until the landholding numbers on the left of the facsimile page correspond with the landholding numbers on the part of the map you are interested in.



For example, take a look at Thomas Murphy, shoemaker, in holding no. 68 beside the church. In addition to cobbling Thomas had a thriving little shebeen. On January 25 1852 the Ribbonmen met there and the man who brought the blunderbusses from Camlough handed them over to two strangers, the shooters. Then they all had a drink and according to Mary Nugent of Dernaroy recorded in the 1930s, they spilt póitín on one of the blunderbusses, which is why it didn’t fire, which is why the police found a bit of newspaper used as wadding, which is why the lookout, poor Frank Berry of Adavoyle, ended up hanging from a gallows at the Market Square in Armagh.



  1. NI Sites and Monuments Record

Go to and click through to the Database. Accept their Ts&Cs and go through to the Search page. Endless fun here, but as an example open the dropdown list in the Townlands box and select Carrickbroad. Click on Search and bring up



No end of spelling variations in castle name. Open it up and – as always in this Database – you fill find treasures in the Related Documents file, in this case a really useful history of the castle and the whole Gap of the North written by leading archaeologist Oliver Davies about 1940. In 1938 he employed Peter Tomany of Faughiletra (grandfather of Brian, our local historian) to pin the stones on the parapet: landowner Mick Murphy (Mickey Sarah) was complaining about animals being hurt.

If you are doing a walk in any townland, check it out here to make sure you are not walking past something spectacular.

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