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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 Roscommon – one of the counties hardest hit by famine and emigration soon within a decade 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 ROSCOMMON 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

READ County Roscommon in the 1830s

FAQ#1 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

FAQ#2 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 Roscommon, this resource can provide local insights into the district in which they lived, and what amenities were available to them at that time...


FAQ#3 What if I don't know where in Co. Roscommon my ancestor is from?

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

READ County Roscommon in 1837

FAQ#4 How do I find my parish on IrelandXO?

IrelandXO has a home page for every civil parish in County Roscommon, the official spelling may vary from old records you may have. To browse the full list of Roscommon civil parishes click the link here:

FAQ#5 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. 















BROWSE ALL County Roscommon


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 this "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. See Tithe Applotment Records using the civil parish name (spelling was not standardised back then and may differ from the Lewis listing). 
  • Ask us: If in doubt, ask our local volunteers on your Roscommon Message Board.

Over to you... got an ancestor from this 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

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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