Map of Poor Law Unions, Dispensary [Registrars'] Districts and DEDs of Co. Londonderry

Below is a map showing the five Poor Law Unions that initially covered the county. Note that one of these, Ballymoney is mainly in Co. Antrim and crosses the county boundary to include the Dispensary [Local Registrar's] District of Kilrea. A part of Coleraine Union was in Co.Antrim and part of Londonderry Union was in Co. Donegal. After the County Council Act of 1898 the parts of Coleraine Union in Co. Antrim became part of Ballymoney Union and the parts of Ballymoney Union in Co. Londonderry [Kilrea Dispensary [Local Registrar's] District] became part of Coleraine Union. The same situation applied with the Co. Donegal parts of the Londonderry Union.

The Poor Law Unions were also the Superintendent Registrars' Districts for the civil registration of births, marriages and deaths. Initially each Poor Law Union had been divided into Dispensary Districts which doubled as Local Registrars' Districts after 1864. Apart from the area around the City of Londonderry and the town of Coleraine, the Dispensary [Local Registrars' Districts] did not change throughout the county between 1864 and 1921.

Each of these Dispensary [Local Registrars'] Districts contained Electoral Divisions, usually referred to as Districts Electoral Divisions or DEDs. In many ways the PLUs replaced the Baronies and the Dispensary [Local Registrars'] Districts the Parishes. The dispensary and the registrar's office in each district was located in a town or village reflecting the shift towards the modern trend of centralising administrative units on urban areas. The older civil parishes had used the church parishes which reflected the overwhelmingly rural organisation of society in earlier times. Only the townland remained constant throughout these changes. However, if you compare the map below with the map of baronies and parishes for the county you will see that the old and the new boundaries do not coincide. In fact there are about twice as many civil parishes in the county compared to Dispensary [Local Registrars'] Districts.

Knowledge of the DEDs shown in the map below is necessary when using the Griffith's Valuation and its subsequent Revision Books, the 1901 Census and the 1911 Census. Note, however, that within these documents officials continued to use the older Barony and Parish divisions, albeit within the newer Poor Law Union structure. The only constant administrative division was the townland. Remember, even towns and cities were located within townlands and the information on a town in the aforementioned documents will be split across the townlands in which the various streets of the town were located.

Apart from the City of Londonderry and its suburbs there was little change in the DED structure within the county until after 1921. The growth of some towns and the effects of partition after 1921 led to the creation of a number of new DEDs. This, in turn, led to boundary changes within adjacent, existing DEDs. It is particularly important to be aware of these changes when using the Griffith's Revision Books in the 1920s and 1930s.

Copyright 2010 W. Macafee.