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Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland (1830-40)

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 08, 1992


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by Patrick McWilliams

"To understand the origin and development of the Ordnance Survey 'Memoirs', which provide the fullest descriptive survey of Pre-Famine society in the northern half of Ireland, we must first examine the organisation through whose agency the scheme evolved, almost accidentally.

I refer of course to the Irish Ordnance Survey, which was established in Dublin in 1824.

Ever since their first involvement with Ireland many centuries before, the island had remained a mystery to most Englishmen. Whether through her people, history or customs, little was known about that troublesome island across the water.

Indeed, in official circles, it was thought that more was known about India than Ireland, and this, combined with the subconscious effect of the Irish rebellions of recent centuries, may have contributed to the decision taken in 1824 to authorise a geographical survey of-Ireland, with the object of equalising taxation at the local level.

This led to the establishment of the Irish Ordnance Survey, under the command of Colonel Thomas Colby of the Royal Engineers."

This article looks at the origin and development of the Ordnance Survey Memoirs of Ireland.