Kerry 1834-1841

The Ordnance Survey letters in regard to Kerry 1834-1841 are a valuable resource for the local historian.  The collection, commonly known as O'Donovan's Ordnance Survey Letters, after the historian, John O'Donovan (1806-1861), who led the project are now available online here.

Rattoo Round Tower 1840 Drawing

Rattoo Round Tower 1840 Drawing 1840

In the early 1820s, a consistent island-wide valuation of property in Ireland was initiated by the British parliament as a basis for an effective taxation system. The Valuation involved military engineers, through the Ordnance Survey, mapping and setting administrative boundaries and assessing the productive capacity of all property in the country in a uniform way.  The writing is surprisingly easy to read which is great.

Donovan on Kilbonane

Donovan on Kilbonane

The Ordnance Survey Letters are the surveyors' field notes, commentaries and correspondence to the Ordnance Survey headquarters in Dublin. They were written between 1834 and 1841. The Letters' collection is commonly known as O'Donovan's Ordnance Survey Letters, after the historian, John O'Donovan (1806-1861), who led the project of information collection, notation and compilation.


This collection provides a unique glimpse into everyday life in Co. Kerry in the years leading up to the Great Famine. The Letters provide the surveyors' experiences of the places they visited and their accounts of the local history, topography and antiquities of each parish. Also included are their informal reflections on the living conditions and impressions of the local people in the parishes visited.

Aghadoe Church

Drawing of Aghadoe Church 1840

The collection of Letters available for access in this section is provided courtesy of the Royal Irish Academy.   Online information by AskAboutIreland.


  1. Michael Dunne Michael Dunne
    December 4, 2016    

    Interesting geographical histories and name places, for instance that Rathass meant the fort of the Western Plain. There are over 700 pages and I dont think they are alphabetically listed. Do you know Kay where St Johns Parish history and Tralee is listed in this large work. The relevant pages would be of great assistance as my pc runs slowly.

    • Kay Caball Kay Caball
      December 4, 2016    

      Michael from what I can see on the Index the two areas are Rathass on pages 54-59 and Tralee on 302-325. While it gives these pages, as far as I can see it depends on each computer for the particular page. However, Tralee is down towards the very end so its not as hard to get at as some of the others.

  2. Michael Dunne Michael Dunne
    December 4, 2016    

    Was this John O’Donovan related to the owners of Donovans Mills of Ballymullen and the owners of the Jeanie Johnston?

    • Kay Caball Kay Caball
      December 4, 2016    

      Michael, I don’t know where you found the ‘John Donovan’ content so I am just presuming that it is something on John Donovan & Sons, The Square, Merchants who purchased the Jeanie Johnston in Liverpool and ran it as a Famine Ship from the Port of Tralee (Blennerville). Kay

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