By Tom Coughlan, Author: Research always seems to throw up the unexpected. Before starting to write Tracing Your Leitrim Ancestors (Flyleaf Press 2018), I believed that Leitrim had always been the least populated county in Ireland – as it is today. However, this is not the case. In 1841 Leitrim had 155,000 residents, making it only the 6th smallest county in terms of population. It dropped to 112,000 in 1851, and continued to drop in every subsequent census. Other economic factors during the 20th century continued the decline to a low of around 25,000 in 1996. Since then it has risen to about 32,000. The decline of 28% between 1841 and 1851 can be attributed to the Great Famine of 1845-1849, and its aftermath of emigration and disease. The scale and duration of the impact makes Leitrim one of the most significantly affected. Perhaps the simplest explanation for this can be found in McPartlan’s Statistical Survey of the County Leitrim, 1802, which jokes that land in Leitrim was sold by the gallon and not by the acre. Like many other words written in jest, there is a large element of truth in this. Much of Leitrim is covered in water, and much of the rest is either mountain or bog. It is not a county offering a great living to a farmer, and neither does it support much industry.
New Title – “Tracing your Leitrim Ancestors” now available
By Tom Coughlan
The title is a comprehensive guide to all of the records available for tracing families in County Leitrim and is filled with information on what the records contain, and how and where they can be accessed. This includes guidance on researching in Irish archives and on the many on-line sources now available. It is well illustrated with maps and with examples of the types of records to be found; and with other relevant background material. It also provides background on the social history of Leitrim and how this history has affected the keeping and survival of records. There is also a comprehensive index. This is the latest in a series of county guides published by Flyleaf Press. These include guides for Dublin, Kildare, Limerick, Sligo, Galway, Cork, Clare, Westmeath, Kerry, Limerick, Roscommon, Mayo and Donegal. Read More
Small Sources 34. This is a list of 59 boys and 21 girls attending Townavilly (alias Tawnawully or Tawnawilly) tenantry school in 1st May 1849. The lists are among the papers of the Commissioners of Education in Ireland, which are in the National Library of Ireland – Ms 17,960 (3). The Commissioners were set up in 1813 to manage ‘endowed’ schools, i.e. those that were funded by means of rent from lands they owned. A small number of schools owned such estates, either as a result of charitable donations, or ancient land-grants from the crown. One such was Raphoe Royal School, originally established in Donegal town in 1618, but moved to Raphoe in the 1680s. It still exists as the Royal & Prior Comprehensive School. This blog concerns a separate ‘tenantry school’ established by the Commissioners for the children of tenants on their land. These lands were in Townavilly or Tawnawully, which is a District Electoral Division situated Northwest of Donegal Town and containing 14 townlands. During the 1840s, which was the decade of the Great Famine, the relatively poor land was non-productive and little income was received from the estate. There were around 200 households on the estate at this time. The Annual Report of the Commissioners for 1848-49 notes that they had “… expended large sums in giving employment to tenantry, in squaring the farms, in building and establishing a school for them”. However, they also reported that “ …we regret to be obliged to report that the lawless spirit which so long prevailed in this mountainous district .. has again exhibited itself ….. we have determined to put at the disposal (of the agent) a sum of money by which he may assist in enabling such of the tenantry to emigrate as it is desirable to be removed from the estate”. Their 1849-50 report further states that “… we have felt ourselves coerced, by the peculiarities of the estate and the tenantry resident thereon, to … assist several families in emigrating to America…. And we have further to state that a large number of children continue to receive gratuitous instruction at a school established for us for their benefit”. Their report of 1853/4 seems to suggest that their efforts were successful as they note that the estate ‘.… long in an almost hopeless condition, appears now to hold out a prospect of improvement’. It is not clear which of the children and their families emigrated as a result of the above inducements. A search of the 1901 census found 13 men with the same names still living in the area. These are listed below with their townland of residence and their age in 1901. It is a reasonable presumption that at least the younger of these are the same people. Based on their ages in 1901, they would have been aged between 9 and 19 when attending the school in 1849. Read More
Flyleaf Press have published ‘Tracing your Leitrim Ancestors’ by Tom Coughlan. It is a comprehensive guide to research on the families of county Leitrim, Ireland. It sets out the records available, where they can be accessed both on-line and in archives, and how the available records can be used to best effect in genealogical or family history research. It is fully indexed, richly illustrated with examples of the records available, and contains links to a wide range of on-line resources. It can by purchased from here.
Tom Coughlan is a professional genealogist with a Diploma in Genealogy and Family History from University College Dublin and significant experience in conducting family history research for international clients. Although he has conducted research in almost every Irish county, his primary interest is Co. Leitrim where his own family roots lie, and where he now lives. In addition to research, Tom has presented genealogy courses and lectures; published articles on family history; and is a member of the expert team which provides genealogy advice to visitors to the National Library of Ireland. He is also engaged in a long-term, wide-ranging study of aspects of Leitrim’s genealogical story. Read More