In order to identify the genealogical sources available in county Waterford it is necessary to first give a brief description of the various administrative divisions that existed in Ireland in the nineteenth century.
County: the territory identified as an administrative area by England from the 13th century onward. A sheriff and later a Grand Jury were appointed to administer to this division of land. There are 32 counties in Ireland, 26 of which are in the Republic.
Barony: this territory dates to the medieval period and relates to lands granted to a large landowner or baron. This is now an obsolete division but in the nineteenth century was widely used. There are 9 baronies to be found in whole or part in county Waterford.
Poor Law Union: Under the Poor Relief Act, 1838 Ireland was divided into districts or 'Unions' within which the inhabitants were responsible for the poor of the area. The Poor Law Union embraced a number of townlands within a radius of 10 miles or so, with a large market town as a centre. The boundaries of the Unions bore no relationship to those of the counties Poor Law Unions were subdivived into 829 registration districts and 3751 district electoral divisions.
Parish:There are two types of parish civil and ecclesiastical. The civil parish, is a state unit of territorial division for census and valuation purposes. Civil parishes frequently break both barony and county boundaries. The ecclesiastical parish is the normal unit of local Church administration and generally includes a number of civil parishes.
Townland: this the smallest administrative division of land in Ireland. The present townlands date from 1837. In records such as valuation records and census returns parishes are divided into townlands. The townland name is an extremely important piece of information it is invaluable in locating families in Ireland.
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