The word townland itself, is derived from the Old English word ‘tun’ meaning enclosure, and is the common term for a variety of small local land units that varied in name throughout the island of Ireland but were most commonly called baile bó or cow lands.
There are approximately 62,000 townlands in Ireland which vary in size greatly with the smallest less than an acre and the largest measuring some 2,830 hectares. These variations are due to the fact that their shapes and sizes are related to the local topography of the area and the practices associated with them.
Although research into townlands could be said to have started thousands of years ago when people first started recounting tales of great heroes carving out valleys and goddesses drowning in rivers which then come to bear their names; it wasn’t until the early 19 th century that any high-quality academic research into placenames commenced. It was then that the British government set up the Ordnance Survey of Ireland.