Ireland/Mapping Townlands

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The following outlines a step-by-step process for the mapping of townland, civil parish & barony boundaries in Ireland.

A brief history

A townland is a small geographical division of land. The townland system is of Gaelic origin, pre-dating the Norman invasion, and most have names of Irish Gaelic origin. However, some townland names and boundaries come from Norman manors, plantation divisions, or later creations of the Ordnance Survey.

There are approx. 61,000 townlands in Ireland according to Wikipedia. Through a donation of out of copyright sheets from Trinity College Dublin, the Irish OpenStreetMap community now has a source from which to map all townlands on the island of Ireland. The total quantity currently added to OSM is detailed on the townlands.ie website

Progress Monitoring

You can review the current state/progress of the project by visiting any of the 3 sites below

OSM Ireland Boundary Layer Townlands.ie OSM Ireland Historical Map Server

Osmie Map-Server1.JPG

Osm ie townlands.JPG Osm ie map server2.JPG
OSM Ireland map server showing boundaries currently mapped Townlands.ie was created by rorym and includes a lot of analysis of current and historical progress OSM Ireland out-of-copyright map server visually showing the current coverage of the rectified GSGS 3906 sheets

Why are townland boundaries important to have?

Townlands.ie logo created by OSM user matze
In Ireland, a townland is (generally) the smallest administrative division of land and they form the building blocks for higher-level administrative units such as:
  • Civil Parishes
  • Electoral Divisions (in the Republic of Ireland) or Wards (in Northern Ireland)
  • Baronies
  • Counties (will allow for accurate fine tuning of pre-existing data in OSM)
  • Provinces (will allow for accurate fine tuning of pre-existing data in OSM)
  • Local, National & European Election Constituencies

The benefits of having all townland boundaries mapped in OpenStreetMap are:

  • It will allow for geocoding of rural addresses
  • It will enable anyone to fully utilise and visualise Census data
  • Highly useful for genealogical searches for people looking into the history of family trees of immigrants down the centuries
  • Gives the option of using OSM data for a much higher level of statistical analysis as presently the smallest boundaries available with which to divide up Ireland are City & County boundaries.
  • All of the above plus the favourable terms of the ODbL license applies ensuring this data is free to use for any and all that want to make use of it, in other words, no exorbitant fee's would apply for this data.

If you know of other reasons, feel free to add them to the list.

How long will it take to finish all townlands in Ireland?

This is a multi-year project which has been ongoing at varying rates among the OpenStreetMap Ireland community over the last number of years. Recently Townlands.ie added an ETA function showing how long it would take to complete all the townlands in Ireland. As of 13th Oct 2014, at the current rate of mapping, the project would not be completed until the year 2025.

The hopes are that the information on this page will spur additional people to take part in mapping these important boundaries.

As of 13th Oct 2014, there are approximately 50,500 townlands remaining to be added to OSM. Based on this, the 3 tables below show the time required to complete map this quantity based on X number of mappers adding X number of Townlands on a daily basis.

Time to 100% coverage based on 5 townlands mapped a day
Qty of mappers 1 2 3 4 5 10 15 20
Daily qty by x mappers 5 10 15 20 25 50 75 100
Days To Finish 10,113 5,057 3,371 2,528 2,023 1,011 674 506
Months To Finish 337.1 168.6 112.4 84.3 67.4 33.7 22.5 16.9
Years To Finish 28.1 14.0 9.4 7.0 5.6 2.8 1.9 1.4

As you can see, the more people actively involved, the better.

The table below contains the same information, however the qty of townlands mapped each has been increased from 5 to 6 to illustrate the impact a small increase in effort can have when spread among many participants.

Time to 100% coverage based on 6 townlands mapped a day
Qty of mappers 1 2 3 4 5 10 15 20
Daily qty by x mappers 6 12 18 24 30 60 90 120
Days To Finish 8,428 4,214 2,809 2,107 1,686 843 562 421
Months To Finish 280.9 140.5 93.6 70.2 56.2 28.1 18.7 14.0
Years To Finish 23.4 11.7 7.8 5.9 4.7 2.3 1.6 1.2

How long will it take an average mapper to complete a single map sheet?

To give a rough idea, for a single sheet that requires rectification and mapping, the approximate time frame to complete it, spending an hour a day at the task, is roughly a month. That breaks down as follows:

  • 2 weeks to review all existing OpenStreetMap data under the sheet and realign and map any missing roads etc.
  • 2-3 days to rectify the sheet
  • 2 weeks to map the townlands

Whom to contact if you need assistance

Feel free to use any of the following methods to contact any of the Irish mappers, however it is recommended you use the mailing list for all townland mapping related questions so that everyone on the list is aware of the question and more importantly, the answer. As time progresses, these Q&A's will be assembled into a F.A.Q on this page to benefit other mappers

Mailing List
Sign up for the mailing list talk-ie@openstreetmap here
IRC
Use this link to connect via your web browser

or the following link if using an IRC client irc://irc.oftc.net #osm-ie

Facebook
Facebook Group: "OpenStreetMap Ireland"

The process laid out

Below is a high level overview of the process of mapping townlands including the rectification of the TCD map sheets. For more detailed information an 8 part video series is available futher down this page which goes into much more detail.

Start-To-Finish, the process of mapping townlands in Ireland

Mapping townlands video series

An 8 part video series was created by DaCor which goes through all aspects of townland mapping. Below is a brief summary of each episode, along with links to anything mentioned in each episode.

To watch the full series in sequence, click here

Episode 1 - Overview

Video Link Episode 1 - Length 4 Mins
Townland Mapping Video Series
Summary This episode gives a brief overview of the whole series and includes a quick run through of the various tools and resources that will be featured in later episodes
Links Covered in later videos

Episode 2 - Selecting an area to map & requesting new map sheets if needed

Video Link Episode 2 - Length 5 Mins
Screenshot of the Irish Map Server showing approx 250 of 650 sheets rectified
Summary In this episode I show how to use the OpenStreetMap Ireland map server to identify if townlands have already been mapped in your chosen area and if not, how to request a new map sheet to be added.
Links

Episode 3 - Review existing OpenStreetMap data for accuracy

Video Link Episode 3 - Length 15 Mins
Screenshot of 90 Days of edits heatmap from ITOworld.com which is useful in identifying where you last edited
Summary The map sheets that are used as a basis for mapping townlands need to be positioned correctly to allow for accurate tracing of the boundaries.

This positioning is called rectification which will be covered in episode 5 however the map sheets are rectified against existing OpenStreetMap data, so it is important that this data is correct before using it to rectify against.

In this episode I will show how to review existing data and adjust it if required to improve its accuracy.

I will also go through a handy heatmap tool from ITOworld.com that you can use to keep track of your progress

Links
Keyboard Shortcuts
  • W - Turn on Improve Way Accuracy Mode
  • Hold down Ctrl - Add a new node
  • Hold down Alt - Delete a node

Episode 4 - Cropping a map sheet so it displays correctly

Video Link Episode 4 - Length 11 Mins
Fine tuning of the cropping of a map sheet in MapWarper.net
Summary This episode provides instruction on cropping map sheets in using Mapwarper.net so that only the main body of the map sheet remains and the border is removed
Links

Episode 5 - Rectifying a map sheet

Video Link Episode 5 - Length 18 Mins
Rectifying a map sheet in MapWarper.net
Summary This episode goes through the steps of rectifying a map sheet so that it appears in the correct location and is as accurately placed as possible using Mapwarper.net. Also included is instruction on using Mapcraft.
Links

Episode 6 - Preparing JOSM with presets and map styles

Video Link Episode 6 - Length 6 Mins
The Map Settings window in JOSM
Summary In this episode, I show how to setup JOSM with Map Paint Styles and Tagging presets to assist with mapping townlands. I also show how to modify the toolbar to allow easier access to the various tagging presets.
Links

Episode 7 - Creating townland boundaries

Video Link Episode 7 - Length 33 Mins
Townland mapping in JOSM
Summary This video shows you how to create townland boundaries using JOSM. Included is instruction on how to read the map sheets to identify the correct boundary line and some simple tips to make this task easier.
Links
Keyboard Shortcuts
  • Alt + 1/2/3 - Switch layers
  • Alt + Left Click - Split current way at previous node
  • P - Split a way in two
  • C - Join two ways
  • R - Reverse direction of way e.g. reversing the flow of a stream

Episode 7.1 - What is a sub-townland and how to map it

Video Link Episode 7.1 - Length 5 mins
Screenshot of JOSM with Sub-Townland Preset in use
Summary This video explains what a sub-townland is and also goes though in detail how and when it should be mapped and when it is not necessary to map these. Included is instruction on using the sub-townland preset to make this task easier.
Links

Episode 7.2 - How to map townlands split into multiple parts

Coming soon

Episode 7.3 - Future topic title here

Episode 8 - Tips, tricks, and troubleshooting

Video Link Episode 8 - Length 27 mins
Screenshot of www.Townlands.ie
Screenshot of JOSM relations window
Summary This videos covers some additional tips, tricks and troubleshooting for issues that may come up but have not been covered in the previous videos of this series. Each bullet point below contains a links to the portion of the video specific to each bullet point:
  • How to handle boundaries that cross bridges & rivers/streams - 00:55
  • How to handle issues in the relations window
    • Gaps in the boundary loop - 03:29
    • Boundary ways not selected in sequence - 05:23
    • Selected too many ways for boundary - 07:49
    • Selected way is too long (not all of it needed for boundary), needs to be split - 08:30
  • What a relations error looks like when you try uploading and how to fix it - 10:02
  • How to spot gaps between townland boundaries using townlands.ie debug - 12:39
  • Modifying an existing boundary to remove part of the boundary and add a new portion - 16:55
  • Tricks to use when trying to map on hard to read sheets - 21:18
Links

Episode 8.1 - How to map and tag Historical and other features found on the TCD map sheets

Video Link Episode 8.1 - Length 21 Mins
Screenshot of a church tagged with info identified on map sheets
Summary This videos shows how to correctly map castles, forts etc. In addition, there is also instruction on how to map schools, churches etc, all of which can be identified on the TCD map sheets and details on how to modify the map styles to allow for easier viewing of the information below in the satellite layer or on the map sheets.

Each bullet point below contains a links to the portion of the video specific to each bullet point:

  • Historic Features
    • Old lodge where only the shell of the building exists - 00:18
    • Ancient / Childrens / Infants Burial Grounds - 05:16
    • Castle ruins - 14:55
    • Abbey ruins - 17:39
  • Present Day Features
    • Large country houses / stately homes - 01:30
    • Bridges - 07:40
    • Churches & Schools - 08:29
      • Churches or Chapels where no name is present on the map sheet - 15:25
      • Schools where you can't be certain if the building is still in use as a school 16:10
    • Post Offices. See why you *shouldn't* tag these when you come across them on the TCD map sheets - 10:38
    • Lakes - 11:19
    • Crossroads, both where the crossroad is still in existence and also where it has been realigned so it is no longer a cross road - 11:45
    • Graveyard - 17:39
  • Using Ctrl+W to toggle the wire-frame mode in JOSM - 19:16
Links

Getting JOSM ready

There are a few things you need to add to JOSM to enable you to map townlands effectively. These only need to be done once so if you have already done these, skip this step. Detailed instruction, if needed, is available in Episode 6 of the Townland Mapping series, linked above

Why JOSM instead of other editors?

  • Editing relations is easier with JOSM
  • The townland-mapping workflow has been refined with JOSM in mind
  • Most Irish townland mappers just prefer JOSM, and will find it easier to help you with that editor if you come across issues

Map paint style for Irish boundaries

The Irish Boundaries Map Paint Style in JOSM makes it easy to see your progress in JOSM and where gaps exist if you are adding townlands over a large area. To add the map paint style, created by IrlJidel, complete the following:

  • Go to Edit > Preferences > Map Settings (3rd option down) > Click Map Paint Styles tab > Scroll through the left list until you find "Irish Boundaries" > Select it > Click the blue arrow to add it to your "Active Styles" list on the right

Presets

The "Irish Boundaries" presets, also created by IrlJidel, will enable you to tag townlands quickly and help prevent you making errors and also ensure all townlands are tagged in the same manner across the country. To add these presets to JOSM you need to complete the following:

  • Go to Edit > Preferences > Map Settings (3rd option down) > Click Tagging Presets tab > Scroll through the left list until you find "Irish Boundaries" > Select it > Click the blue arrow to add it to your "Active Presets" list on the right

Join in

The list below is out of date. Better data is available on townlands.ie Whos Mapping and Mapping Activity pages

Below is a list of all 32 counties on the island of Ireland, along with the names of mappers active in each county with regards to townland mapping. Feel free to join in and put your name beside a county.

Progress is tracked through rorym's townland site

County Townland Mappers Status
Antrim Stephen_Co_Antrim Complete
Armagh Stephen_Co_Antrim Complete
Carlow brianh,IrlJidel,pjna Complete
Cavan KDDA - Around the border with Fermanagh Underway
Clare cgarvey, rorym Underway
Cork ... Underway
Derry Stephen_Co_Antrim Complete
Donegal Stephen_Co_Antrim, Stereo, SK53 - Inishowen peninsula, KDDA, idnoc - South Donegal Complete
Down Stephen_Co_Antrim Complete
Dublin There's a few :) Complete
Fermanagh KDDA Complete
Galway Boggedy, DaCor Underway
Kerry eireidium Underway
Kildare jmkie Complete
Kilkenny ... Complete
Laois Teester Complete
Leitrim NoelB Complete
Limerick ... Underway
Longford PaddyMatthews Complete
Louth ... Complete
Mayo ... Underway
Meath brianboru Complete
Monaghan Stephen_Co_Antrim, KDDA - Around the border with Fermanagh Underway
Offaly Teester Complete
Roscommon DaCor Galway/Roscommon border areas only Complete
Sligo NoelB Complete
Tipperary Dafo43 Complete
Tyrone KDDA, Stephen_Co_Antrim Complete
Waterford jpronans Underway
Westmeath brianboru Complete
Wexford pjna,IrlJidel Complete
Wicklow matze Complete

Frequently asked questions

The following are a list of questions that have come up regarding the townland mapping process which have not been answered through the videos or other resources. Most of these are quick questions, with quick answers. Where more detailed information is warranted, videos will be created, carrying on from episode 8 e.g. 8.1, 8.2 etc.

Townland Mapping FAQ
Topic Question Answer
Townland Boundary Where the volume of water in lakes has changed, how do I map the boundary given the map sheet shows an outline of the lake which no longer matcher the physical feature? Trace your townland boundary right up to the waters edge, whether the lake has increased or decreased in size. Include the lake boundary itself as part of your townland boundary.
MapCraft Do you want the reserve/freeing process in Mapcraft apply to when you are editing the townlands in OSM or just when perparing the map/rectification in mapwarper? You only need to reserve a slice in MapCraft when you are changing its status.

You are free to continue to reserve the slice for as long as you wish, however it has no impact on the rectification or townland mapping process.

MapCraft is purely a tool to allow for easy tracking of progress and to maintain a record of links to all the various map sheets.

Townland Boundary How do I treat existing boundaries when I come across them, for example county boundaries. What should I do with these? County boundaries are essentially a collection of townlands and as such, the boundary of a county is the same boundary used by townlands.

When you are adding townlands near a county border, feel free to realign the county border when adding your townlands as the pre-existing boundaries in OpenStreetMap for Ireland were traced off much lower quality out-of-copyright maps which means they are often slightly off.

You should also include the county boundary as part of your townland boundary the same way you would a road or river.

Townland Naming What do I do when I come across townlands with "or" in the title? Where you find "or" in the title of a townland e.g. "Cloonlish or Robinhood", you should chose one as the name and the second as the alt_name.

For an example of this tagging see how the townland shown as "Cloonlish or Robinhood" has been tagged here.

You can see what this townland looks like on the GSGS 3906 map sheets here

Townland Naming What do I do when I come across townlands with "and" in the title? Where you find "and" in the title of a townland there is no need to use the alt_name tag.

Instead treat the title as a single name e.g. Gannew and Curreen (on OSM).

Broken boundary I think the townland or county boundary is broken as it is not displaying correctly but I can't tell how to find where the issue is You can use relation analyzer tools to pinpoint where the are breaks in the boundary. There are 2 good tools you can use for this
Townland Naming I found a townland with it's name followed by brackets which display the Electoral Division, for example Ballynagran (E.D. Glenealy). How should I name the townland? Name the townland without the Electoral Division, e.g. Ballynagran. This will help users when searching for townlands in Nominatim.

Useful links

A collection of all links already listed on this page collected in one location.

Townland specific resource sites

  • The IreAtlas
  • HistPop.org - Useful site which lists townlands in alphabetical order, showing the county, civil parish, barony and electoral district they fall into


External reference sites

The follow are sites that are useful for tagging additional features which you may find while mapping townlands e.g. schools, with information relevant to these features.