Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Getting Political About Divisions


Anyone researching their Irish forebears eventually becomes accustomed to seeing such terms as townlands and civil parishes. When we delve into the mystery of just where Stephen Malloy's wife and daughter were staying during his abrupt departure for Boston, those division labels become an important part of the Irish research lexicon.

Basically, a townland was considered among the smallest of geographical divisions in Ireland. As an indication of their relative size, keep in mind that there were literally tens of thousands of townlands in Ireland when Stephen Malloy sent his letter to his wife Anna in 1849.

Finding the townland of an Irish ancestor becomes, for some, the equivalent of pursuing the genealogical holy grail. Yet, here we are handed that information passed down to us in the form of a letter clutched closely for the rest of her life by the wife of the man who supposedly sent it. If the letter to Anna Flanagan Malloy was indeed sent care of the Flanagans' landlord John Mason, his property holdings, as the envelope led us to believe, were noted to be contained mostly in the townland of Cappanihane.

From that tiny vantage point of the townland, we can examine the various geopolitical divisions in which the Flanagans' home was located. Cappanihane was contained within the electoral division known as Ballyagran—an important name for us to keep handy as we explore this possibility later this month.

Beyond that, the local civil parish would have been Corcomohide, contained within the barony of Connello Upper. All this was under the jurisdiction of County Limerick, despite the original townland—to say nothing of the Catholic parish to which they were personally affiliated—actually including land either at the county line, or (in the case of the Catholic parish) reaching across to the other side of the border with County Cork.

Confusing? I still find the designations hard to remember, which may be reason for so many researchers urging us to persist in seeking those townlands. And yet, with those terms, we can now begin to explore what records for the Flanagans and the Malloys are available to us from that time period, both at the governmental level and from their own church parish.  

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