I've been lost in every county in Ireland.
I like it. Being lost.
Unless there's somebody waiting at the other end. Don't like that feeling as much.
As a city 'boy' rural Ireland was a strange country to me. Except for a small pocket of S Limerick, the rest of Ireland may as well have been Ontario or Florida until my early 20s. I liked geography at school and I knew the names of rivers and mountains but I couldn't tell you was Duhallow a town, village or what?
But being a field archaeologist changed that and doing historic graveyard surveys changed it considerably. We are now invited to small rural parishes all over Ireland & the UK. We now delight in the winding rural road, cutting deep into a hillside and being met on arrival with a handshake and a 'welcome!'.
We come across lots of queries from people nowadays who don't know Ireland - couldn't tell you if Cork was close to Dublin or what exactly Connemara is? If there are 26 counties, or 32 or 36 even. But they are following their roots and they want to know - they want to find out. This post is written for those people. I will show the key resources we use whenever we need to trace a new place.
There are five main sites I use in an attempt to avoid getting lost in research and travel.
1. www.logainm.ie - this is an official website which has most formal Irish placenames in it. Looking for a place called Shanagh, Butlerstown, Co. Cork - as told to a lady in the States about her mother's homeplace. Type in Shanagh and hit search. Turns out there are Shanagh's but not in Butlerstown. Sugar, we are lost!
2. www.townlands.ie - this is an opensource project and is also excellent. Type in your placename, in this case Butlerstown, and it will present the database records of townland. electoral district, Civil parish and Barony. It also lists all townlands named Butlerstown and it is a bit confusing. Two of them are in Cork but which is ours, and also is it the Electoral District instead https://www.townlands.ie/cork/butlerstown/? You just have to patiently click through each option and assess them. In this case the ED contains a townland called Shanaghobarravane. (right click, open in new tab is your web browser friend in this context).
Could this be our Shanagh? Is Shanagh not a different place to Shanaghobarravane? Could be, but, in Ireland we have a practice of shortening placenames in everyday use. I used to live in Clon(akilty). We played a match in Carrig(tohill). You have to know how the locals shorten things, or the fact they shorten names, to make progress sometimes.
(Also try http://www.swilson.info/db/townlanddbs.php - this excellent site is also a great help when tracing townlands)
3. Google Maps - couldn't do our work without it! Try multiple spellings. Don't believe the first answer you get. Learn from the first two sites above of other possible names. So firstly Shanagh isn't found, nor indeed is Shanaghobarravane. Google maps doesn't have them all.
4. www.archaeology.ie (or www.osi.ie) I'm a archaeologist so I 'live in' www.archaeology.ie - search by townland name and view the historic mapping (1830s-1910s) of every field and lane in the country. www.archaeology.ie does have Shanaghobarravane - now we know where it is and we can trace the lanes and boreens that'll get us there.
Now go back to step 1 https://www.townlands.ie/cork/barryroe/lislee/butlerstown/shanaghobarravane/
Also go back to step 3 google maps, zoom in on the new place, right click>what's here>save those longitude and latitude coordinates as your target destination. Send the coordinates to your phone and now google maps is your friend.
5. Our 'go to' site then for trying to match surnames with places is www.johngrenham.com - 'binagulating' families a neighbouring local historian called it. You get a few free searches and then pay a few quid thereafter. Well worth the few bob because of the authoritative results. Some surnames are very place specific in Ireland.
So, it's a dance.
Not getting lost in Ireland.
Dance through the different websites, learn from one to improve the other.
Relax and go with the flow. If it is too difficult then get onto facebook and ask on the myriad of county genealogy groups eg. the excellent https://www.facebook.com/groups/corkgenealogicalsociety/.Or contact an expert.
I like being lost. But I prefer arriving. Getting there. Especially if there are people waiting.