Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Online store of our place names clicks with local history lovers

(l-r) Daithi McKay MLA, chair of the Stormont committee for finance and personnel; Dr Michael O Mainnin, Queen's School of Modern Languages; and Sammy Wilson, Minister for Finance and Personnel, at the launch of placenamesni.org

If you’re fascinated by exploring the origins and history of Northern Ireland’s place names then academics at Queen’s University would like you to get in touch.

Dr Michael O Mainnin, from Queen’s School of Modern Languages, is director of the Northern Ireland Place Names Project (NIPNP) which launched a new website at Parliament Buildings (in the townland of Ballymiscaw) on Monday.

The purpose of the placenamesni.org database, which features 30,000 place names and 130,000 historical references, is to help preserve and explore our shared cultural identity.

“We hope this new online resource will encourage people to find out more about where they live and in doing so keep their place name alive,” Dr O Mainnin said.

“The new website sheds light on the complexity of our linguistic and cultural diversity, and has an important role to play in the promotion of education for mutual understanding. It is hugely important that our place names are preserved for future generations.”

Building on many years of work, the NIPNP research team gathered evidence for the origins of county, barony, civil parish and townland names, as well as the names of major urban settlements and physical features such as rivers and mountains.

They used evidence from archaeology and historical records, literature and folk tradition, and local history and topography to track the development of the names.

Some date back to the early Christian period in Ireland, while others originated in the 17th and 18th centuries, in the aftermath of the Plantation of Ulster. Users of the new website can search for places by name, location or common strands and it also features an interactive searchable map, provided by Land & Property Services.

If you want to know where Tamlaghtduff is compared to Falgortrevy, the website has the answer for you.

Daithi McKay MLA, chair of the Stormont committee for finance and personnel, hosted Monday’s launch event. “By safeguarding and promoting place names, this project will provide a useful tool in education for mutual understanding for future generations, in addition to offering an online resource for assisting overseas genealogists in establishing family links to this part of the world which, in turn, has the potential to boost tourism,” he explained.

Minister for Finance and Personnel, Sammy Wilson, also praised the project. “I would like to compliment Queen’s University on their progress with the website and am pleased that Land & Property Services have been able to contribute to this exciting project,” he said.

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