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Help and advice for GENUKI Gazetteer maintenance - Ireland (part 2)

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GENUKI Gazetteer maintenance - Ireland (part 2)

GENUKI Gazetteer maintenance - Ireland

Basic information

All the Irish Civil Parishes and Townlands appear in the gazetteer, but for many we do not have an actual location. So as a starting point it uses the centre of the county when we have no location. Where we have a parish location we use that as a starting location for the townland. All very approximate but it helps guide reasearchers to the appropriate area and as we add locations it gets nearer and nearer to the real value. So most of this work is to achieve that. There is also other documentation describing how it is achieved.

  • The status of each county section can be seen on the statistics page which helps identiy the amount of work required for each county.
  • Details of the format of the source files and basic techniques are described in the Gazetteer maintenance page.
  • Work already mostly done on developing the Irish counties is a useful adjunct.

Work required

The starting point for each county is to take a look at the Parishes column on the statistics page. If you hold the mouse over the numbers it explains what they represent. We want to get to the stage where there is just single number here where we've created a web page for each parish. If there is a name other than Phil Stringer in the Maintainers column then somebody is already working on this county.

In the end we want to get to the stage where there is nothing in the Approx column, and nothing in the No links column but it is easiest to do some of the tasks in a particular order.

Exact location for parish

In the Approx column, if there is a number marked Parishes with an approximate location this is the simplest one to resolve first. It is those parishes that had a location in our original data and location should be nearly right. Click the number for the names of the parishes, and click each name to see a page with links to online maps. Select This place shown on a Google map. Zoom the map appropriately and drag the icon to where you think the centre of that place is. You then have the correct value to go the csv file and can change the Approx field (column C)from Y to N. If you find the Google map does not take you to a place and ther is none nearby on the map, then perhaps then perhaps an error was made in the past. So use the instructions in the next step for finding the centre location of the parish.

Parishes where we need a location

These can be identified in the Parishes column, and are labelled Civil parishes for we don't yet have a location. Click the number and see the list of names. Click a name to take you to links to online maps, the ones in the south are much easier to do.

  • North - the Irish Times site is your friend as it shows where they all are on a map. It is not always easy to relate this to the modern Google map as it does not show place names. But you need to open a Google map in another browser tab and pan it and move the marker to then centre of the area shown on the Irish Times. You then have the centre location of the parish.
  • South - follow the link to the Irish Ordnance survey site. Use the search menu on the right, and select the county and then Historic parishes. That shows you a historic map of the parish along with its boundaries. Pan the map until the red cross is in the centre of the parish. Don't pan it again on subsequent clicks as it changes the location that you've just found!. I find it best then to go to the 'Preview map series' menu on the right and select 'Wind report' it changes to a modern map which is much easier to relate to the Google map. Zoom, without, panning so that you can see place names that you can relate to a Google map that you've open in another tab. So look at that the OS map with one eye and move the marker on the Google map to the same location. You then have the centre location of the parish.

Cut and paste the location (Lat/Lon) into column B in the csv file for that parish entry. Change the Approx field (column C) from Y to N. Now for all the townlands without a location in this parish, change the Approx field (column C) to P, and add the parish centre location to column B. This makes the most significant improvement to the gazetteer.

Places with no location at all

As updated versions of the csv file are updated the entries that need attention in the statistics file thankfully drop. At this point the Places with no location at all in the Approx column should now have disappeared. If not it is worth fixing these now as there will be very few left for this county. Sometimes you may see Market Town in column K with the name of a description in column L. Search the gazetteer for this place to read the description. It may tell you this is also a parish. If so copy column L into column L for the parish where it is missing and then you can probably just delete the duplicate Market Town entry. For others a Google search can help identify it and lead to a location.

Townlands with a parish centre location

We are now getting to the more tedious work, but once done it makes it much more useful for researchers. In the Approx column there is probably a significant number entitled Places with a parish location. This gives list of all the names which can be clicked to link to maps, such as Google centred on the parish centre, the value in that entry in the csv file. However going through this alphabetically can be slow and it isn't as easy to spot mistakes.

The easiest method I've found is to look in the csv file at all the entries in a parish, the smaller parishes being easier. Use the gazetteer to search for the entry for the parish and ask it to display all the places in the parish on a Google map. There will be townland names on the Google map which should match the ones you need to find. If none match then the parish location may be wrong! There do seem to townlands in other parishes with the same name as actual parishes. In the rare event that this has happened, then fix the parish centre location as described above. Drag and drop the marker on the map to find the location of the townlands and change the location field in the csv file and also change the Approx to N.

Start with the ones where we already have an approximate location as they show up reasonably easily to start with. Then compare the unknown townland names nearby on the Google map with the csv file. Where they match, drag and drop and you have another answer. Google does at times have two identical names close by. I tend to use the one in the larger font as that seems to be the older one. If both are the same size I drag to point mid-way between.

So what about the townlands that don't seem to be on the Google map? Well we can go to the Irish OS site and search for the townland and see where it is on the map. Be careful that the one you get is the one you want as there can be multiple townlands with the same name. Again a useful check is to look at adjacent ones on the map and see if they are in that parish in the cav file. The Irish OS technique can only be used for counties in the South as it doesn't have the countties and townlands in the search menu for the north. If it is a county in the North try the map provided by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. We haven't found a way to link into a location so you will need to zoom and pan to the parish location and then search for townland names. There does seem to be better coverage than Google, and it appears to have more accurate locations.

There will be some very small townlands that the Irish OS site doesn't have in the menu. If it is an island, then browse the Irish OS 6" historic map for the parish and pan and zoom across the wet areas. It is easy to find island names there. For tiny townlands that aren't islands, try a Google search as somebody may have described the location. Otherwise you are left with panning the historic 6".

There is also a technique that will find the townlands plotted on a Google map. Go to and put the place and county in the search bar. It normally finds it and shows a marker on a map with a rough outline of the townland. What you want is the location of the marker. So right click next to the marker and a menu will appear. Select What's here? and the lat/lon is placed in the search bar. I tend to compare that with other places in the parish to make sure it is nearby and so the right one.

In the larger parishes I find it useful to put in a framework of townlands, upload the csv file, and wait for the nightly update. Things are then clearer on the map the next day. There is less clutter and it is easier to finds ones that still need doing. You need to zoom in for Google to make some visible.

The remaining places with approximate locations

That ones that are left with approximate locations come from the CIA World Fact Book. Some will be duplicates of existing places, some geographic features and some places smaller than townlands. So take each one in the list, and select nearby places on a Google map.

  • Look at nearby places marked on the map, and if a duplicate, remove it from the csv file.
  • I look at all Cross Roads and tend to remove any that match the name of a nearby townland. If it is a new name check on the Irish OS map and zoom in when it usually becomes visible. You then know the exact location and can drag/drop the Google marker. It is also useful loohing at the historic 6" to see which parish it was in, and put that name in the Parish field. The CIA didn't always get the spelling right, so make any adjustments that are needed.
  • If it is a named bridge, then I keep these setting the exact location, and filling in the Parish name.
  • Then any small places I treat in a similar way.

It is during this phase that the towlands with parish boundaries running through them become visible as we have two or more markers at the same spot. Zoom in to make it clearer and perhaps drag one to the side to check the names and the parishes.

We only want the user to be presented with a single place at that location. We don't multiple gazetteer entries for any of these as we are trying to specify where they are, not to document an administrative hierarchy. But we can do our best to tell the user that it is in multiple parishes. So for the first entry for the townland put the names of the parishes it lies in, in the parish field separating the names with a colon ':' character (without quotes). Then delete the entries from the other parishes. We then have a single place listing all the parishes it is in.


There do seem to be some parishes split across counties. If you find one, get in touch with Phil as he has devised a technique to handle it but has not yet implemented it.