Monday, July 22, 2013

District Electoral Divisions and Poor Law Unions, the mortar in Irish Genealogy Brick Walls.

Break wall with tree
In Ireland the Poor Relief Act of 1838 divided Ireland into districts or "unions" in which the local taxable inhabitants were to be financially responsible for all paupers in the area. In 1898 the Poor Law Union was adopted as the basic administrative division in place of the civil parish and barony.
Civil registration is the government recording and registering of births, marriages, and deaths. Registration began in Ireland in 1864. However, registration of Protestant marriages had begun earlier in 1845. Births, marriages and deaths were registered with district registrars. Registration districts were set up within the boundaries of the existing Poor Law Unions

My McQuaid family comes from Tummery, Dromore, Tyrone. The Parish of Dromore was split between the Poor Law Unions of Omagh and Lowtherstown (present day Irvinestown in county Fermannagh). Tummery is in the Moorfield Electoral Division, one of nine in the Lowtherstown PLU.
The following is a list of Brick walls that I had to over come.
1. My Great Grandfather Thomas John McQuaid, son of Thomas McQuaid and Mary Barrett, was born in 1871. This was after the 1864 start of Civil Registration by Poor Law Union. This is a blessing because the Civil Registration Births are on line at His record can be seen at The place of birth and Christening are listed as Irvinestown Ferm.. Family History, his Death Record and Naturalization Record all state that he was born in Tyrone. At the time I found this record I did not know what Townland my McQuaid's came from. I had to search this data base for all McQuaid's & Barrett's having children with in 10 years of 1871. For all of the ones that did have a birth place in Tyrone, I researched their family until I found a ships manifest in 1898, that said Rose Barrett's passage was paid by her uncle Thomas McQuaid from Monson Mass. This Thomas was the father of the Thomas John mentioned above, my 2nd GGrandfather. It turns out that Rose Barrett's father was John Barrett, brother to my 2nd GGrandmother. Rose's Civil Registration stated her father was from Tummery, Tyrone.
Familysearch Birth Thomas John McQuaid Irvinestown
2. After I found the Townland of Tummery, I decided I would check the Griffith's Valuation. I have my Genealogy on, so I started there. I could not find any Thomas McQuaid In Tummery, or Tummery at all! The Griffith's Valuation of 1864 was completed by Poor Law Union. That means you cannot sort by Parish, if the Parish you are looking for is split between multiple Poor Law Unions. So I went to 'Ask About Ireland" at: I found it with no problem. It turns out that left out ALL the Townlands in Dromore Parish, that are in the Lowtherstown Poor Law Union. They only have the Griffith's for the part of Dromore parish that is in the Omagh Poor Law Union. I contacted them and they stated they will put in a work order to have it fixed the next time they do maintenance on the Griffith Valuation data base.
Griffith's Valuation Tyrone Union of Lowtherstown 1864                    Griffith's Valuation Tyrone Union of Omagh 1864
3. PRONI, the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland, is the go to place for all things genealogical in Tyrone and all of Northern Ireland. I decided to look there for info on the Townland of Tummery, in Dromore Parish, Tyrone. Before I explain what I found at PRONI, here is a listing of Townlands in Dromore Parish, note Tummery. Here is a map of Townlands in Dromore Parish, Tummery is on the lower left hand side.
I searched the PRONI site and found a page with links to Townland, Parishes, Dioceses, Baronies and Poor Law Unions in Nothern Ireland: The Alphabetical List of Townlands does NOT list Tummery. A Ctr-F search on the page of Townlands starting with 'T", for the word Dromore comes up negative.
I next went to the Parishes Link. I selected Tyrone and a map came up with a list of Parishes. See: I click on Dromore and a list of Townlands came up. NO Tummery.
I next went to the Poor law Unions link at:
There is a listing for Irvinestown (Counties Fermanagh and Tyrone), but no link for Townlands in the PLU. The Armagh PLU County Armagh is not listed as covering part of Tyrone. It does. The Enniskillen PLU County Fermanagh is not listed as covering part of Tyrone. It does. The Grotin PLU is missing, completely, from the list. In 1870, the Union of Gortin  was amalgamated with that of Omagh. One still needs to know that Gortin existed, for searches before 1870. ie. Griffith’s Valuation & Work House records.

PRONI Poor Law Union Page
Is this a problem only with Dromore Parish or County Tyrone?? How many other Parishes in Tyrone are split between Poor Law Unions with-in Tyrone and/or between counties? How many Tyrone Genealogy Brick Walls are held up by a lack of knowledge in this area?
I did a little research and found a great WEB site that lists all of the Tyrone Townlands with a column for their Parish, Barony and Poor Law Union. Sortable by column. See
Another source for the Poor Law Union that your Townland is in, is:
The General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands, Towns, Parishes and Baronies of Ireland, 1851. Dublin: printed by Alexander Thom for the Registrar General of Ireland, 1861. ISBN: 080631052. This source lists place names identified in the 1851 census of Ireland and gives their poor law union (civil registration district) and other jurisdictions. Available as On-line search at:

After you find out which Poor Law Union your Townland is in, you need to identify which District Electoral Division your Townland is in. If you click on a Poor Law Union name in 1-12 below, you will see the number and names of the District Electoral Divisions in that PLU. To find the DED for your Townland go to the Census page at: You will see that you can search by DED. Select County Tyrone and type in your Townland. Leave everything else blank. Hit search. Every listing for your Townland comes up. If you click through the pages, you might find that your Townland is split up between multiple District Electoral Divisions in your Poor Law union. (Here we go again) The Irish state came into being in 1922 as the Irish Free State, a dominion of the British Commonwealth, having seceded from the United Kingdom under the Anglo-Irish Treaty. It comprises 26 of Ireland's 32 counties. Since 1949 it has existed as the Republic of Ireland. After the partition of Ireland and the establishment of Northern Ireland, the new Unionist Government proceeded to redraw district electoral division boundaries in the six counties making up the new state. The Unionist Government and its supporters claimed that this redrawing was necessary because population changes had caused discrepancies in the population of DEDs and it was necessary to change the boundaries to equalize electorates. Irish nationalists, on the other hand, claimed that the boundaries were being redrawn so as to gerrymander local councils, producing unionist-majority councils in areas where the majority of the population was nationalist. Certainly, the effect of the redrawing of boundaries was to dramatically reduce the number of local councils under nationalist control


With the reform of local government in Northern Ireland in 1973, both county councils and urban and rural district councils were abolished and replaced by a smaller set of district councils. These councils were divided into wards, each ward containing a number of townlands or parts of townlands. As a result, district electoral divisions no longer exist in Northern Ireland and the groups of wards used for single transferable vote are known as "district electoral areas".

For genealogical purposes, the DED's identified on the 1901 census are the ones you need. If any of your family had to go to the Work House, during the famine, they went to the one in the Poor Law Union their Townland was in. The lists of people, by year, for that Work House, only list the District Electorial Division that they were from, not the Townland. If you check the family name on the 1834 Tithe Applotment for the Townlands in your DED and the Work House names from your DED, you can narrow your search down.

The following Tyrone Parishes lie with-in multiple Poor Law Unions and/or across County lines.
Parish followed by PLU name:
  1. Aghaloo-Armagh(County Armagh) PLU- Dungannon PLU- Clogher PLU
  2. Ardstraw-Castlederg PLU- Omagh PLU- Strabane PLU- Gortin PLU
  3. Carnteel- Dungannon PLU- Clogher PLU
  4. Donacavey- Omagh PLU- Lowtherstown(County Fermanagh)  PLU
  5. Donaghedy - Gortin PLU- Strabane PLU
  6. Dromore- Lowtherstown(County Fermanagh) PLU- Omagh PLU
  7. Errigal Keerogue- Clogher PLU- Dungannon PLU
  8. Killeeshil- Dungannon PLU- Clogher PLU
  9. Kilskeery- Lowtherstown(County Fermanagh) PLU- Enniskillen(County Fermanagh) PLU
  10. Magheracross- Lowtherstown(County Fermanagh) PLU
  11. Pomeroy- Dungannon PLU- Cookstown PLU
  12. Urney- Castlederg PLU- Strabane PLU
Take note when you hit a Brick Wall. Make sure you are searching the right data base. Don't be afraid to question information posted on well known sites. Everyone seems to be confused by Poor Law Union geographical coverage.
The following data bases are structured by Poor Law Union:

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