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Wondering what impact the Great Famine had on a particular district in Ireland? 

Now you can view the pre and post-famine landscape for any location across the island in these breathtaking online resources. 

Learning how to research the effects on the Irish Famine

It's no secret that the tragedy of the Great Famine (1845-52) had a profound and devastating effect on Irish society. A natural part of any Irish family history journey leads to wondering about what an ancestor bore witness to during this period. Such was the trauma to the Irish psyche, few survivors spoke of it. So how do we go about piecing their story together for the next generation? 

We know from census data that in the space of 10 years (1841–51) many parishes along the Wild Atlantic Way lost more than half their population. Hidden by this big data are the personal stories of devastation that each community experienced. However, a lot of the famine is inaccessible at local level for those just getting into Irish history or genealogy.

Many of us can only dream of knowing where our Irish ancestors came from. However, anyone lucky enough to know what parish or town an ancestor came from can now discover more about how their community fared during this traumatic period. Got a place in Ireland dear to your heart? It too has a famine impact story worth exploring below. 

In this article, we feature two excellent online resources that show the reality of depopulation – at both parish and townland levels.  The scope of resources featured here encompasses the island of Ireland, both rural and urban, including more than 3,000 civil parishes and over 1,600 towns. 

LEARN MORE What is a Civil Parish?  |  What is a Townland?

Resource 1:  The Great Irish Famine Online

The Great Irish Famine Online

The Great Irish Famine Online is a ground-breaking interactive map project which charts changes in the human and social landscape of pre and post-famine Ireland. Swipe between the 1841 and the 1851 map to see key changes by parish and by town in:

We know that in 1841 Irelands population was 8.1 million, (often believed to be understated, truer figure likely to be 8.75 million)  86% of people lived in rural areas.

#Step One;  Click here to EXPLORE THE MAPS Find Your Area on the Map or use the search key to the right of the screen. Then move the vertical bar to the left for 1851 and the right for 1841

#Step Two: Compare 1841 to 1851 

#Step Three: Compare the number of families living in area while also look at the type of housing in each particular area

Sticking with Castleventry, lets look at the families there and the type of housing,  again we see 251 families living there, post famine this dropped to 123  as per below.While the Great Irish Famine tells us geograhically what happened, it doesn't tell us anything about specific households, this is where the Census of Ireland comes in. Once we know what affect the famine had, we can then explore the Census records. 

Resource 2:  The Census of Ireland 1881 (Part 1)

Census Table Koldavnet

The Census of Ireland 1881 Statistical Report (Area, Population & Number of Houses) allows you to see the reality of depopulation at an even more local level. Scroll through different parishes and drill down to each townland for:

  • number of houses (inhabited and uninhabited);

  • population (male & female) of each townland within a parish;

  • cross-compare data from every census (1841, 1851, 1861, and 1871). Which may help narrow down the window of when a family group emigrated or declined in the homeland. 

For example, the data for Achill Co Mayo (pictured above) gives a chilling account of how Carrickkildavnet (a congested townland in 1841) was laid waste by the famine. Home to 148 souls in 1841, Carrickkildavnet returned a population of only 8 souls in 1851. By then only 2 of its 26 houses were occupied. This data may serve as the only memorial to those who perished or were displaced here.  

The Great Irish Famine Memorial

A picture of The Great Irish Famine Memorial in Ireland. Downloaded from

Produced in 4 volumes, this resource can be explored FREE online (thanks to the University of Southampton).

Vol 1: Province of LEINSTER  |  Vol 2: Province of MUNSTER  |  Vol 3: Province of ULSTER  |  Vol 4: Province of CONNAUGHT

To quickly find these tables for your ancestral county, we have provided direct links below:

Search your County

Navigation Tips

  • Townlands in this report are listed by civil parish. An alphabetical index of townlands and parishes can be found at the end of each volume. To find out which parish your ancestral townland belonged to, see or

  • County boundary changes in 1898 may require a search in a neighbouring county.

  • The comparative table of interest is entitled "Area, Houses, and Population" which appears early in each county report. The table number of this comparative report varies (from III to VII) depending on the county.  

The Hunger: The Story of the Irish Famine is a documentary on one of the most catastrophic parts of Ireland's history. Narrated by Liam Neeson, it cleverly combines illustrations of the country at the time with modern-day images of Ireland, along with quotes from people affected by the catastrophe and analysis from historians.




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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