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Did you know that every town and parish in Ireland was described as it was in 1837? Whether your ancestors emigrated or lived in the same place for generations, nothing beats a look back to what life was like there just before the Great Famine.

First up is County Mayo – one of the counties to suffer the most within a few short years of this publication. Click your ancestral town or village below to discover which parish to join and explore. 

Already know your ancestral civil parish name? JUMP TO PARISH

Your MAYO parish just before the Famine

Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland is one of the most valuable and unique sources of local history in Ireland.  The equivalent of a tourist's "Lonely Planet Guide" in its day, this groundbreaking publication came in two volumes, with an accompanying atlas. First published in 1837, it was written at the time Catholic Emancipation, National Education, and the first Ordnance Survey of Ireland were introduced and is chock full of leads and clues for the family historian. (Even hedge schools get a mention!)

DISCOVER Your County in 1837

Will I find my ancestor's name in Lewis' Topographical Dictionary?

If your ancestor was a member of the local gentry you are likely to find names (spellings may vary) under "The gentlemen's seats are...". This listing features landlords, their agents, the clergy and the name of their residences. This is particularly useful for the rest of us researching mere mortals such as poor tenant farmers and labourers. Why? Because (a) these unique names and spelling variations will unlock newspaper archives that could include an indirect mention of your ancestor, in all sorts of surprising ways, and (b) researching these landlords & agents may lead to the discovery of Landed Estate Records pertaining to your ancestor. Our advice? Keep these names handy in your Ancestor Archive Passport

Is my ancestor's church in Lewis' Topographical Dictionary?

Very likely! Lewis covers all places of worship for that parish, to include cases where parishioners attend service in a neighbouring parish.  

  • Note that Roman Catholic churches are denoted by "chapel" in these volumes. It was the early days of Catholic Emancipation and many of the rural RC chapels mentioned in Lewis were no more than thatched houses (replaced in the later 19th century). 
  • The official parish "church" was that of the Established Church of Ireland (Anglican).
  • Other denominations were typically denoted as a "meeting house" or "house of worship".

LEARN MORE What is a civil parish?

If you have traced your ancestors to a particular town, village or parish in County Mayo, this resource can provide local insights into the district in which they lived, and what amenities were available to them at that time...


What if I don't know where in Co. Mayo my ancestor is from?

Lewis also describes County Mayo in exquisite detail, with clues about ports of emigration, agricultural practices, local traditions and more.  

READ County Mayo in 1837

Help! Which parish is my town or village in?

Click on the links below to connect with the correct parish. Where Lewis describes both the town and parish we've provided the links to both. 

Achill Sound > ACHILL


Ballycastle in the civil parish of DOONFEENEY

Ballyhaunis in the civil parishes of ANNAGH and BEKAN

Ballina aka Beleek > KILMOREMOY




Belmullet in the civil parish of KILCOMMON (ERRIS)


Bunnyconnellan aka Bonneconlan >  KILGARVAN

CASTLEBAR (then a parish itself; now its parish is AGLISH)

Charlestown > KILBEAGH

CLAREMORRIS aka Clare in the civil parish of KILCOLMAN (CLANMORRIS)

CONG in the civil parish of ROSS aka FERA



Foxford in the civil parish of TOOMORE



Kilkelly > KILMOVEE


Kiltamagh aka Newtown Brown > KILLEDAN

KNOCK aka Knockdrumcalry

Louisburgh > KILGEEVER


Newport aka Newport-Pratt in the civil parish of BURRISSHOOLE



Westport in the civil parish of OUGHAVAL

BROWSE ALL Parishes in County Mayo


1: Why can't I find the place I seek in Lewis' Topographical Dictionary?

  • Spelling Variations: Published just before the First Ordnance Survey of Ireland (aka the "6 inch" maps) the spellings of place names in these volumes vary from later documentation (when spellings were standardised).  So if you have a placename clue on an old record (that doesn't seem to match up to modern-day maps) Lewis may hold the very key you need to finding it! 
  • We have added the modern-day spelling (standardised by Griffith's Valuation) to each report heading, to help you navigate this.
  • Try searching or
  • Remember to explore adjoining counties as some county borders were changed later in the 19th century. 

2: Why can't I find my parish in Lewis' Topographical Dictionary?

  • Civil vs RC Parish:  The "parish" to which Lewis refers is the Civil Parish (which also represented the Church of Ireland parish). Sometimes the Roman Catholic Parish was "co-extensive" (same name, same boundaries) with the civil parish. However, in most cases, the RC parish division rarely matched in name or boundaries (and won't match post-Famine RC parish names or boundaries!) 
  • To help you navigate this, we have linked his "In the R.C. divisions ..." to its relevant RC parish register in the NLI database

3: How can I confirm if I have the correct parish for my ancestor?

  • Baronies: Some civil parishes share a name, so pay close attention to the barony location
  • Tithes:  Check to see if your ancestor is listed in Tithe Applotment Records for this period. Click on "the tithes" in each parish report to find its own tithe listing.
  • Ask us: If in doubt, ask our local volunteers on your Mayo Message Board.

Over to you... got an ancestor from Mayo or another county?

Click on the button below to share what you know about your Irish ancestor and discover more!

HOW TO Add your own Ancestor

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