Have you viewed the place your ancestors lived at the time they lived there?

Understanding your landscape

Some of my maternal ancestors were from Clones, Co. Monaghan. Patrick Hand was my great-great-great grandfather, born c. 1838. He lived just outside the town in the townland of Gransha More and is listed there on the 1901 and 1911 Census. The townland is still there today and you can see it on the Ordnance Survey modern day Aerial Map, part of the OSI Historical Mapping resource.

This resource includes the 25” series (1893-1913) and it coincides with the Census of 1901 & 1911 giving anyone with ancestors living in Ireland at that time, a unique set of records that can be used in conjunction with each another to give a picture of the Irish countryside as it was then.

On the 25” Map, I can see the townland where Patrick lived and from the Census see that he lived there with his daughter Mary Kilighan, son-in-law Hugh Kilighan and grandson Patrick. Interestingly, the ‘Kilighan’ surname listed in 1911 was recorded as ‘Kelagher’ in the earlier Census of 1901.

The townland was oval shaped and measured over 220 acres and a river snaked along the south-eastern edge towards Gransha Beg in the south. The townland boundary is indicated by a dotted line and the rise and fall of a nearby road is indicated by a tiny cross and a numerical figure representing the feet above sea level. This can tell you if the roadway was flat or undulated between one place and another. Would Patrick have needed a horse (could he afford one?) or could he travel easily on foot? The Census B2 Form only records a fowl house as part of his property in 1911 and does not list a stable.

A path in the hills

What does the living landscape tell you?

Looking at the map I can see that Patrick lived near the Great Northern Railway line. From my own research, I know that later generations worked on that railway. In the south-east several small foot bridges and stepping stones are marked showing local crossing points over the river. Another notable structure just north of Gransha was Grallaghboy Corn Mill. From the Census I see that Patrick’s son-in-law Hugh, was a Flax Scutcher (he transformed the flax straw into fibre), so I can assume that both the corn and flax industries were important in the area and to the family.

While the maps won’t help you learn more about individual ancestors they can show you the terrain and topography of your ancestor’s home-place, give a glimpse of their surroundings and offer some context to local place names.

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