How was your local area affected by the Irish famine? Find out in new interactive map tracking population changes parish by parish.

A new map developed by a researcher at Queen’s University Belfast allows you to track the devastating effect of the Irish famine on your local area parish by parish.

Part of a broader research project entitled "The Causes and Consequences of the Great Irish Famine" and led by Dr Alan Fernihough, Lecturer in Economics from Queen’s Management School, the research examines both the contributing factors and outcomes of the famine, in this case looking at the shifts in population in Ireland during the 19th century.  

“As expected, we found from the research that the population dramatically decreased after the famine due to the high number of deaths and high levels of people emigrating,” said Dr. Fernihough.

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An example from the map. Image: The Irish Famine Project.

An example from the map. Image: The Irish Famine Project.

“However, we also found that in the larger city areas, the population increased post-famine. Cities such as Belfast, Dublin, and Cork increased in population size as people from the rural areas migrated into the larger cities in search of employment opportunities and relief institutions like the workhouse and fever hospitals.”

The Great Hunger was the largest and most deadly disaster in Irish history in which one million died and over a million more emigrated. The latest research looks at exactly how the hunger, starvation, and disease that overtook the country between 1845 and 1851 affected different areas, with some experiencing a massive loss in population while some city areas actually experienced a population increase as people moved out of the countryside.

“The devastating effect of the Great Famine on the Irish population is well known. However, the uneven spatial distribution of the famine’s impact is given less attention,” continued Dr. Fernihough.

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A million lives were lost and over a further million people emigration. This famine graveyard is in Dingle, Co. Kerry.

A million lives were lost and over a further million people emigration. This famine graveyard is in Dingle, Co. Kerry.

“For example, the population of the parishes surrounding Galway city fell by around 40 percent, whereas the population of the parish containing Galway city actually rose by 15 percent. In some areas along Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way, for example, the parish of Lackan in County Mayo, the population fell by as much as 60 percent.”

Looking at a wide number of contemporary data sources, including the 1841 and 1851 Census of Ireland and the Poor Law Commissioners reports, the map breaks up the country by civil parish and allows you to zone in on any given part of the country to compare population. Those looking at the website on their phone can use its location services to analyze the changes in their current location.

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“The website will be of interest to anyone looking to find out more about the Irish Famine,” Dr. Fernihough continued.

“It’s not just about population loss, the website contains information on the impact of the famine on the proportion of families in poor housing, agriculture, alongside information on literacy. It is a piece of history that you can touch.

“You can use the location services on your mobile phone to find out the impact of the famine wherever you are located in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, something that would be of particular interest to tourists.”

You can find more information or try out the map for yourself at https://irishfamineproject.com/.

Track how your ancestral home would have suffered during the Irish Great Hunger. iStock