The O'Briens of Wexford, Ireland

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Census and Census Substitutes in the  1800's

Boundries: Townland Parish Baroney Diocese Poor Law Union Probate Districts

Data: 1817-Emmigrants 1820 1821-census Householders Index 1842-Voters List 1853-Griffith 1861-census 1867-census 1876-Householders

Irish Boundries in 1800's:

Townland Parish Baroney

A. Townland

The Naming of the Land

Bagley (p11) says that "the Irish people have been inclined to lavish names on their land. There is scarcely a rock or clump of trees or path that goes unnamed. Each of the fields comprising a farm has its own name, e.g. the river field, the chapel field, the road field, the coursing field, the bush field, the nine acres and so on. Ten or fifteen contiguous farms go to make a townland -- the smallest administrative unit of land in Ireland". I can verify that. Ancesotrs on the old homestead (from 1860s's) had given names to hills (Tom's hill, Dan's hill), bends in the road, and lookouts (eg. the Vineyard-but no grapes were grown).
He on the same page describes Townland in the following three paragraphs:


"The geographic term 'townland' arose from an unfortunate official translation of the Gaelic baile fearainn meaning 'homestead land'. There is here no question of a township or urban centre of any kind. The confusion probably arose because of a later and secondary meaning ascribed to the word baile -- usually rendered 'Bally' in the English language -- equating it with 'village', 'town' and 'city'. The place-name prefix 'Bally-' occurs in about 6,500 townlands or one in every ten townlands in Ireland. Other high frequency townland prefixes include Cill -- Kill, meaning a church; Cnoc - Knock, a hill; Lios - Lis(s), a rath or fort and Doire - Derry, an oak wood".

Townland Names: Local Versions

"....There was a tendency on the part of local people to disregard common townland prefixes in everyday speech. This practice occasionally gave rise to a popular and an official version of the same townland name. Thus, for example, a particular townland may be known in local circles as 'Lough' whereas the same townland would be listed as Ballylough in Government registers and other official records". "The location of a townland, ..(is often) given by reference to the nearest town or village".

Townland Names: Official Versions

Our townlands bespeak the names of local families, man-made structures such as churches and fortifications, features of the landscape like woods, streams, hills etc., historical events and mythical allusions. In size they vary greatly, a goodly number falling in the range of 50 to 500 acres. Twenty or thirty adjacent townlands grouped round an abbey or church (nowadays often in ruins) go to make a parish".

Names are provided at this level in the Householders Index.

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B. Parish

Bargey (p 11) describes Parishs as follows: "From the time of the Reformation in the 16th century down to the present day the Irish Church has been organised on the basis of two separate parochial structures, one Catholic, the other Protestant. Since Protestantism was the official religion of the State, the Protestant parish, in addition to this obvious function as a unit of ecclesiastical administration, was also employed as a unit of civil administration for the purposes of census taking and tithe composition. Catholic parishes, on the other hand, were used solely for ecclesiastical purposes and generally were larger than their Protestant counterparts. Each denomination maintained its own registers of baptisms and marriages; the surviving original volumes are held in presbyteries and churches throughout the country". Map

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C. Baroney


Bagley (p11)... describes the Baroney as follows: "... Unlike the townland and parish which continue to function as organic units, the barony, as a unit of administration has been obsolete for almost a century. Nevertheless between 1600 and 1900 the barony was used extensively by the English administration in Ireland as a convenient unit in the making of land surveys and population counts. ...Although the barony is a Norman term, nevertheless the names of many of the baronies eloquently bespeak the territorial holdings of the great old Irish families, for example, Clanmaurice, Oneillands, Tirkennedy, Clankelly and Iraghticonnor".

In Wexford the most populated baronies by householder O'Briens (as described in the Householders index) are Bantry (82), Ballaghkeen South (70), and Forth (34). There are less in Shellmailiere West (25), Ballaghkeen North (24) and Gorey (20). There are very few in Bargy (15), Shelmaliere East (15), and Scarawalsh (1). (Soundex names are also included in these figures (incl. Bryan, Brian but not Breen). Data is attached in Excel (office 97) format.

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D. Diocese


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E. Poor Law Union


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F. Probate Districts


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Data Collected for Census and Census Substitutes


Emigrants from Counties Carlow & Wexford to Canada. By 1817 there was a post war recession and Irish crops were failing. Soldiers returning from the Napoleonic wars on the European mainland were flooding the labour market. There had been a war in North America between the Americans and the Canadians (1812-14). The English government offered free land to settlers (preferrably with military experience) to defend Canada from the Americans.

Records are on the Canada page.

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Alcock estate tenants, Clonmore, 1820 (1820 NL ms 10169)

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Extracts from Government Census for St. Mary's Parish (New Ross) mainly for surnames Walsh and Kelly. QUB; SLC film 100158.

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Tithe Applotment Survey

Note: The handwriting in many cases is terrible & sometimes so is the print quality (eg. Edermine). The difference between a Brien and Breen is often that of a dot over the e. A second letter is in brackets as an alternate interpretation of the first. I also place brackets around words that are not described in other townland indexes [eg. Brocorrow (Nol)]. If a townland name is not found in other townland indexes I have placed a question mark as a marker.


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Index to Griffith's Valuations in County Wexford in 1853

In order to produce the accurate information necessary for local taxation, the Tenement Act of 1842 provided for a uniform valuation of all property in Ireland, to be based on the productive capacity of land and the potential rent of buildings. The man appointed Commissioner of Valuation was Richard Griffith, a Dublin geologist, and the results of his great survey, the Primary Valuation of Ireland, were published between 1848 and 1864.

Names are supplied from Griffith index on CD-Rom. (Tennant info. found on LDS microfilm are not yet included). Information is provided by various volonteers.

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Census of Inhabitants of the Catholic Parish of St. Mary's, Enniscorthy on April 17, 1861. (included in the parish register, see RC records section; possibly a copy of official census-now destroyed).

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Census of Catholics in the RC Parish of Marshalstown and Kilmeashal (in parish register: see Monart, RC records section); The Irish Geneologist 6 (5) (1984 or 1985?).

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The following individuals owned one or more acres of land in Co. Wexford, Ireland, the latter part of the 1870s. Some owned property in Wexford but lived elsewhere. Of course, many more Irish owned less than one acre, or none at all, and their names would not appear here.


Barony Parish Townland Acreage O'Brien Bryan Breen
Shelmaliere West says Killurin (is no commons there;is in Bolabaun, Carrigmanno, Cornwall, Healthfield, Killurin, Reddina, Shanahona, or Tinnakilla) Commons 2 James Brien
Shelmaliere West Killurin Commons 1 James Brien
Shelmaliere West Killurin Commons 1 John Brien
Forth Murrintown (name is unrecognized, is either Kildavin, Rathaspick or St. Peters) Forth Commons 3 John Brien
Forth Murrintown Commons 12 Patrick Brien
Forth Murrintown Commons 7 Peter Bryan
Bantry Templeludigan Ballygibbon 12 Timothy Brien
Forth Murrintown Commons 7 William Brien
Scarawalsh Enniscorthy Chancery, Bormount 6,135 Loftus A. Bryan
Scarawalsh (or Gorey) Ferns 118 Robert B. Bryan

O'Briens forthcoming


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1890 Births

Source: Irish Genealogical Society, Int'l (IGSI)

Surnames of Ireland-1890 Birth Records

Frequent Surnames in Irish Counties; Sorted by Surname
Surname County #of Births in 1890
Brien Meath 13
Brien Kilkenny 15
Brien Wicklow 18
Brien Wexford 32
O'Brien Dublin 105
O'Brien Cork 139
O'Brien Clare 47
O'Brien Waterford 47
O'Brien Tipperary 74
O'Brien Limerick 78
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Bagley, Donal F. , The Ancestor Trail in Ireland-A Companion Guide, Heraldic Artists Ltd.-Geneological Bookshop, Trinity St., Dublin 2 Ireland


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Last updated: November 25, 1999.