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Did you know that every county in Ireland was described in exquisite detail by Lewis in 1837? Whether your ancestors emigrated or lived in the same place for generations, nothing beats a look back to what life was like there just before the Great Famine.

Click on your ancestral county below to discover local industry, housing conditions, customs unique to "the peasantry" and more ...


If you have traced your ancestors to a particular county in Ireland, this resource can provide local insights into their lives and the district in which they lived. First published in 1837, Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland is one of the most valuable and unique sources of local history in Ireland.  

The equivalent of a tourist's "Lonely Planet Guide" in its day, this dictionary came in two volumes, with an accompanying atlas. Having visited many of the sites in this book personally, Lewis also invited members of the local gentry in each area to contribute information and insights about their area. It was certainly a groundbreaking publication in its day. 

In it, Lewis gives an extensive description of:

  • every Irish county, town and civil parish,

  • churches (of all denominations) including the corresponding Catholic parish name (if different),

  • local industries, resources, and transport at that time,

  • the principal estates, landowners, and gentry residing in the area,

  • local history, geography, anecdotes, superstitions, and lifestyle of the people.

As it was published around the same time as the First Ordnance Survey of Ireland (aka "the 6 inch maps") it is of particular value to those with placename clues that don't seem to match up to modern-day maps:

  • The spellings of place names in these volumes are of that time and differ from spellings that are found in later documentation.

  • Where an Irish place name was spelled in various ways, a reference has been given from one to the other.

  • The "parish" to which Lewis refers is the civil parish (that matches the Church of Ireland parish).

  • As this was published in the 1830s (when Catholic Emancipation was rolling out) Lewis also indicates whether the Catholic parish was "co-extensive" (same name, same boundaries) or known by another name (and how many divisions or unions applied).

  • He differentiates local places of worship by "chapel" (Roman Catholic) and "church" (Protestant). Many rural RC chapels at that time were no more than thatched houses (donated by the local landlord). 

  • The names of local courthouses, gaols and police stations of that time are also noted.

  • Be sure to check out the entry under TOWNS for inspiration as to where your ancestor may have come from as well. (To help you match these places to their relevant civil parish we have added links where possible). 


Remember: some county borders were altered later in 1898. 

Source: A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis (pub 1837)


1  Where can I find the Lewis entry for my ancestral parish in Ireland?

Browse our TIMELINE CHRONICLES for your parish in 1837 or search all Lewis transcriptions at

2  Where can I get prints of the original Lewis county maps? 

The L Brown Collection offers high-resolution sepia tone Lewis Maps in its extensive collection of Irish maps. 

Got an ancestor who lived in Ireland in the 1830s?

We'd love it if you shared their story on our Irish Ancestors Roll-call here ...  

Add your Ancestor

Want to help post more timelines for your local parish or county? 

SHARE YOUR OWN  Local History Timeline

We hope you have found the information we have shared helpful. While you are here, we have a small favour to ask. Ireland Reaching Out is a non-profit organisation that relies on public funding and donations to ensure a completely free family history advisory service to anyone of Irish heritage who needs help connecting with their Irish place of origin. If you would like to support our mission, please click on the donate button and make a contribution. Any amount, big or small, is appreciated and makes a difference. 

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