Clare GenMaps - mapping surnames, monuments and places in County Clare

Clare County Library

Mapping with Bing, Open Street Map, ESRI and the 1842 Ordnance Survey maps of Clare

Clare County Library has recently launched a new online interactive maps service which shows the distribution of surnames in the county in the 19th Century. The new online Clare GenMaps utilise the ESRI ArcGIS API for FLEX, allowing ESRI, Bing and Open Street Maps to be overlaid with historical maps of Clare from 1842. This new system, developed for the library by Rainer Kosbi, enables the visual representation of surname distribution from three distinct sources. The 1820s-1840s Tithe Applotment Books names all tithe payers in the county (excluding the towns and villages), the 1852/1855 Griffith's Valuation names all ratepayers in the county, and the 1901 Census names every person present in the county on census night.

“This is a major contribution to the wealth of data on the library website,” says County Librarian Helen Walsh.   “It is a completely new way of accessing the genealogical data on the website, and shows clearly over time the spread of surnames across the county. It is a major new tool for anyone searching for their ancestors in Clare, and should be of great benefit to the Ireland Reaching Out and The Gathering projects.”

Clare County Library has been gathering the data for this project and publishing it online over many years. Griffiths’ valuations went online in February 2000, while the library’s transcription and publishing of the 1901 Census began in 2001 and was completed in 2004. The transcriptions of the Tithe Applotment Books went online in 2005. In 2006, the SVG Maps, the first version of the library’s online maps system was launched online, and this was followed by MapBrowser in 2010, and the Clare GMaps in 2012.

“We had been working with Rainer Kosbi for quite some time in trying to develop a visual approach to identifying surname distribution in County Clare”, says Senior Executive Librarian Anthony Edwards, the manager of the library website and instigator of the project. “Rainer had developed map systems for us in the past, and had also helped us create surname frequency tables based on historic data. We knew we had extensive lists of Clare people from the 1820s, 1850s and 1901, and we knew the townland and parish in which they lived. In October 2012 Rainer developed a new version of his maps system based on the ESRI ArcGIS Flex API, and he was sure that this new maps system would allow him to show the surname distribution as ‘hotspots’ on ‘heatmaps’. The new maps use Bing, Open Street map and ESRI map sets, and using the data we had collected for the three primary genealogy sources Rainer was able to develop interactive surname distribution heatmaps for each of the three sources”.

According to Executive Librarian Maureen Comber, “the heatmaps allow you to view the occurrence and concentration of specific surnames within the county during the 19th Century. This function is particularly valuable for people tracing their ancestors when they don’t know where in the county they came from.  For example, the Falvey/Falvy surname in 1855 is located in six townlands, spread over five parishes. A search of these parishes’ baptism and marriage records is an obvious starting point for any researcher.”  

The new maps have already been getting a warm welcome. Irish Genealogy News says that Clare County Library “has created THE MOST sensational maps resource that not only overlays modern maps onto historical maps, it can now map surnames into hotspots.   Searching by surname, the software creates heat maps where clusters or instances of the name appear in either the tithe applotment books 1820-40, Griffiths Valuation 1855 or the 1901 census. Not content with that, you can then zoom into the 1842 6" Ordnance Survey map and overlay it with a modern road map and satellite view. Switching between the two is simple. As and when you want to find out more about a particular townland, you simply click on the location and a host of additional information, from external sites as well as the Clare County Library site, can be checked out. There's a very useful video tutorial to get you started on the Surname Finder. It's great fun. Go play, whether or not you've got Clare ancestors!”

The new Clare GenMaps are now available on the Clare library website, and the new interactive heatmaps are directly linked to the thousands of pages on the library website dealing with the archaeology, history, genealogy and administrative divisions of County Clare.  

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