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Irish Origenes launches of an Interactive Castles of Ireland Map


The Irish Origenes website is designed specifically to show people with Irish ancestry how to use the results of a commercial ancestral DNA test to pinpoint where their Irish ancestors lived and it contains all the resources one will need to achieve this goal. However only about 60% of people with Irish ancestry will be related to the pre-Christian Celtic tribes, so if your recent Irish ancestors originally arrived in Ireland with the Vikings or later in 1169AD with the Normans (and are potentially of earlier Scandinavian, French, English, Welsh or even Flemish extraction) it can be difficult to pinpoint those ancestors to a specific location. But the Normans were prolific castle builders and to get a clearer picture of where these Families settled in Ireland one can plot where they built their castles and tower houses. The result is the Irish Origenes Clans and Castles database which details the location of castles associated with a particular Clan or Family.

The castles can also be individually explored on the Irish Origenes Interactive Castles of Ireland Map which features 1,375 castles built by Vikings, Norman Families, and Irish Clans. There are quite possibly thousands of castles in Ireland but to be included on the interactive map a castle had to fit three crucial criteria. Firstly there had to have been some evidence of a castle, the condition of each can vary considerably from piles of stones to completely intact and currently inhabited Tower-houses. Secondly, there has to have been some historical record of an association with a particular Clan or Family and where possible 2 independent sources were sought to confirm the association. Thirdly, since surnames in Ireland can still be found concentrated in the areas where they first arose, surname distribution mapping was examined to see that the Clan or Family mentioned in a historical record were actually associated with that area (see Butler example). Where possible each pin on the interactive map has been placed precisely on the location of each castle and one can zoom in (in satellite view) and explore the ruins, although where cloud cover obscures the view the pin may be slightly off.

A surprising observation of the Castles of Ireland Map was that it provided a snapshot of the lands, territories, or areas of influence of the most prominent Clans and Families in Ireland prior to the English conquest of the island in the 16th and 17th Centuries. This is beautifully illustrated by the example of the Norman Shortall family who built 5 Castles very close to each other (each no more than 1.5 miles apart) in the northwest corner of County Kilkenny (see image). The presence of these castles within sight of each other is due to the location of the Shortall territory situated as it where  in the badlands bordering the old Gaelic Irish world controlled by the Fitzpatricks and O’Carroll’s to the North and Anglo-Irish lands of the Butler’s to the south.  It must have had a precarious existence! The details of all of these castles were subsequently used to reconstruct the ‘Clan Territories of Ireland Map’ which features over 400 of the most prominent Clans and Families in Ireland at around the time of King Henry VIII.

English Origenes

Scottish Origenes