County Kerry


"Kerry, a county of Ireland, province of Munster, 53 m. long and 41 broad; bounded E by Limerick and Cork, W by the Atlantic, N by the Shannon, which separates it from Thomond, and S by Desmond nd the ocean, containing 1,040,487 acres, divided into 84 parishes. Chief rivers, the Cashing, Lane, Roughy, and Mang. The S is a plain, and fertile in corn; but the greater part is mountainous, chiefly adapted for grazing. Considerable quantities of beef, butter, hides, and tallow, are exported. It sends 4 members to parliament. Pop 205,037. Chief town, Tralee."
[From The New London Gazetteer (1826)]


Archives & Libraries

Kerry County Libraries
Local History and Archives Department, Moyderwell, Tralee.
+353 (0)66 7121200 Fax: +353 (0)66 7129202

Among the collections are:

  • A comprehensive collection of local newspapers dating back to 1820s
  • Collection of Books on Kerry
  • Local Maps (Ordnance Survey)
  • Local Historical Photographs (Lawrence / Eason Collections)
  • Periodicals ( e.g. R.S.A.I. Journal, Cork Historical Society Journal )
  • Tithe Applotment Books (1820/30)
  • Griffiths Valuation of Tenements (c.1850)
  • Specialised family histories
  • Other genealogical material

The archives include:

  • Poor Law Boards of Guardians Minute Books for all of the Kerry Unions.
  • Grand Jury Presentments, 1874-89 & 1892-97.
  • Kerry County Council Rate Books & Abstracts of Accounts.
  • Kerry County Board of Health Minutes (1922-42), Correspondence (1922-45) and Collection Books (1939-69).
  • County Infirmary Minutes 1812-1913.
  • Kerry County Committee of Agriculture Minutes, 1920-1988.
  • Rural District Council Minute Books, 1899-1925
  • Tralee & Killarney UDC Financial Volumes.
  • Dingle Harbour Commissioners Records.
  • Family and estate Papers
  • Some business records




  • Kerry County Council has made the burial registers for 104 local authority maintained burial grounds available online at Kerry Graveyard Records. The records mostly date from the early to mid twentieth century. They can be browsed or searched and copies of pages downloaded as PDF files. 
  • Joe Maher has been photographing headstones and memorials in Kerry burial grounds since 2013. His database of images, which can be searched by surname, is online at www.kerryburials.com.
  • In 2012 Kerry County Council published The Unquiet Grave - The Development of Kerry's Burial Grounds Through The Ages (ISBN 9780957290121). It can be downloaded as a PDF document here.


Detailed census returns prior to 1901 were destroyed in 1922 during the Irish Civil War. The 1901 and 1911 censuses have been digitised and made available online by the National Archives of Ireland.

  • The 1901 Census for County Kerry can be browsed from this link.
  • The 1911 Census for County Kerry can be browsed from this link.
  • The censuses can be searched from this page.

Church History

Before the reformation, nearly the whole of the county was part of the Diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, with the cathedral at Ardfert. The parish of Kilcaskan was part of the Diocese of Cloyne, while the townland of Killmurrily was in the Diocese of Limerick.

Following the reformation, the (Anglican) Protestant Church of Ireland came into possession of the ancient churches, but as only about 2% of the county's population were protestant, most them fell into disuse and ruin. Ardfert Cathedral was destroyed in 1641, and the Diocese was combined with Limerick from 1663. A number of new churches were built at the beginning of 19th Century. When the Church of Ireland was disestablished in 1871, all the unused places of worship and burial grounds were handed over to the local authorities. A further decline in the Protestant population followed the creation of the Irish Free State, and a number of churches have been deconsecrated or demolished, and parishes combined. The diocese now contains 15 churches.

The website of the Diocese of Limerick, Killaloe and Ardfert includes a "find a church" facility.

The majority of the population belonged to the Roman Catholic church. The last Catholic Bishop of Ardfert was ejected from the Cathedral by English forces in 1579. The church had to become an underground one, and the parish system became confused. Eventually, the episcopate was permanently restored to the renamed Diocese of Kerry. The parish structure was established by combining old parishes, new churches built, and the Cathedral and Chapter reestablished at Killarney. Details of the present parishes can be found at the website of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kerry.

The Catholic Encyclopedia on the Diocese of Kerry and Aghadoe


Civil Registration

In 1845, registration was introduced for Church of Ireland and other non Catholic marriages. From 1864, all births, deaths and marriages were compulsorily registered.

Under the 1863 Registration Act the county was divided into six Superintendent Registrar's Districts, based on the Poor Law Unions. These were subdivided into 33 Registrar's Districts, grouping the whole or parts of Civil Parishes.

Details of the Registration Districts are provided on a separate page.

The indexes can now be searched on the Irish Genealogy  website maintained by the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. An increasing number of pages from the extracts can be downloaded as PDF documents. Alternatively, the indexes to the registers can be viewed at the Search Room General Register Office, Werburgh Street, Dublin and extracts obtained.

Civil Registration is the responsibility of the Health Services Executive.


Description & Travel

The best book on the history and topography of the county is:

Barrington, T.J. Discovering Kerry, Its history, heritage and topography, Wilton, Cork, Ireland, Collins Press Second edition 1999 [ISBN 1-898256-71-3]



The transcription for this county from the National Gazetteer (1868), provided by Colin Hinson.




  • O'Connor, M.H. Guide to Tracing your Kerry Ancestors, Glenageary, Co. Dublin, Ireland, Flyleaf Press ~ Phone/Fax:(353 1) 283 1693 ~ 96 p.[ISBN 0 9508466 5 1] -1994.

The 1994 book by Michael O'Connor has been largely superseded by

  • Caball, Kay, Finding Your Ancestors in Kerry, [ISBN 978-1-907990-08-3] - 2018, also published by Flyleaf Press

Historical Geography

The modern County of Kerry was created in 1606, from the merger of the former County Palatine of Kerry with part of the County of Desmond, which was then extinguished.
Historically, Kerry was divided into nine baronies. The four northern baronies which were once part of the County Palatine were Clanmaurice, Corkaguiny, Irachticonnor and Trughanacmy. The five southern baronies were Dunkerron North and South, Glanerought, Iveragh and Magunihy.
There are historical descriptions of the baronies on a separate page.
The baronies were superceded as administrative units in the first half of the nineteenth century, but are still used in some official documents and in popular use, to this day.





County Kerry has two weekly newspapers which have online editions

The Kerry County Library has an archive of local newspapers.

Subscribers to the Irish Newspaper Archive can view and search the following Kerry newspapers online:

  • Chutes Western Herald 1818-35
  • Kerry Advocate 1914-16
  • Kerry Champion 1928-58
  • Kerry Evening Post 1813-1917
  • Kerry Evening Star 1902-14
  • Kerry Examiner 1841-56
  • Kerry Independent 1880-84
  • Kerry News 1894-1911
  • Kerry People 1902-28
  • Kerry Press 1914-16
  • Kerry Reporter 1924-35
  • Kerry Sentinel 1878-1916
  • Kerry Star 1861-63
  • Kerry Weekly Reporter 1883-1920


Published annually since 1968. A full index of all articles published from 1968-2005 provided by Kerry County Library.

The society also publishes an annual 

Postal Address:

The Hon. Secretary,
Kerry Archaeological and Historical Society,
Kerry County Library, 
Co. Kerry, V92 X092

  • From Fianna:
  • Knocknagoshel, Then and Now (annual)
    Mr. L. Keane, Bunavalla, Knocknagoshel, Co. Kerry
  • Sliabh Luachra: Journal of Cumann Luachra,
    Mr. J. O'Mahony, Church View, Gneeveguille, Rathmore, Co. Kerry

Poor Houses, Poor Law

Kerry was divided into the Poor Law Unions of Caherciveen, Dingle, Kenmare, Killarney, Listowel and Tralee. Part of the County fell in the Glin Union of County Limerick. Details of which Union each Parish was in will be found on the appropriate Parish page.

The minute books of the Boards of Guardians of the Kerry Unions are kept at the Local Studies Department of Kerry County Library.