County Laois Genealogy

County Laois Genealogy

Laois Ancestry, COUNTY LAOIS

Irish name: Laois

County Laois (pronounced "leash") is one of the twenty-six counties of the Republic of Ireland and one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland. It is located in the province of Leinster. Its name was formerly spelt as Laoighis and Leix. The population of the county is 69,012 according to the 2006 census. Laois is the 23rd largest of Ireland’s 32 counties in area and 24th largest in terms of population. It is the seventh largest of Leinster’s 12 counties in size and tenth largest in terms of population.

The first people in Laois were bands of hunters and gatherers who passed through the county about 8,500 years ago. They hunted in the forests that covered Laois and fished in its rivers, gathering nuts and berries to supplement their diets.

Next came Ireland’s first farmers. These people of the Neolithic period (4000 to 2500 BC) cleared forests and planted crops. Their burial mounds remain in Clonaslee and Cuffsborough.

Around 2500 BC, the people of the Bronze Age lived in Laois. They produced weapons, tools and golden objects. Visitors to the county can see a stone circle they left behind at Monamonry, as well as the remains of their hill forts at Clopook and Monelly. Skirk, near Borris-in-Ossory, has a Bronze Age standing stone and ring fort.

In ancient times the O'Moore tribe name of Ui Laoighis was applied to their territory, this name being derived from a famous Ulster ancestor named Lughaid Laoighesach, descendant of a renowned Conall Cearmach chief of the Red Branch Knights of Ulster.

The next stage is known as the pre-Christian Celtic Iron Age. For the first time iron appeared in Ireland, as factions fought bloody battles for control of the land. At Ballydavis, archaeologists have discovered ring barrows that date from this time period.

By the first century AD, Laois was part of the Kingdom of Ossory. The county was divided roughly into seven parts, which were ruled by the Seven Septs of Laois: O’More (O’Moore), O’Lalor, O’Doran, O’Dowling, O’Devoy (O’Deevy), O’Kelly and McEvoy.

When Christianity came to Ireland, holy men and women founded religious communities in Laois. Between 550 and 600, St. Canice founded Aghaboe Abbey and St. Mochua founded a religious community at Timahoe. An early Christian community lived at Dun Masc or Masc’s fort, on the Rock of Dunamase.

After 1150, the continental Roman Catholic Church began to assert its authority over the independent churches of Ireland. As religious orders with strong ties to Rome replaced older religious communities, the wooden buildings of the early Christian churches in Laois gave way to stone monasteries. The Augustinians and Dominicans established themselves at Aghaboe Abbey, while the Cistercians took over an older religious community at Abbeyleix.

Around the same time, the Normans seized control of most of Ireland. In Laois, the fortress on the Rock of Dunamase was part of the dowry of the Irish princess Aoife, who was given in marriage in 1170 to the Norman warrior Strongbow. Advancing Normans surveyed the county from wooden towers built on top of earthen mounds, known as mottes. They also built stone fortresses, such as Lea Castle, just outside Portarlington. Several of the county’s towns were first established as Norman boroughs, including Castletown, Durrow and Timahoe.

From 1175 until about 1325, Normans controlled the best land in the county, while Gaelic society retreated to the bogs, forests and the Slieve Bloom Mountains. The early 14th century saw a Gaelic revival, as a burst of force from the Irish chieftains caused the Normans to withdraw. The Dempseys seized Lea Castle, while Dunamase came into the ownership of the O’Mores. Tower houses belonging to Irish chieftains survive at Ballaghmore and Cullahill, both decorated with Sheila-na-gigs.

In 1548, English warriors confiscated the lands of the O’Mores, and built “Campa,” known as the Fort of Leix, today’s Portlaoise.

Shired in 1556 by Queen Mary as Queen's County, Laois received its present Irish language name following the Irish War of Independence. Laois was also sometimes spelt "Leix". Portlaoise (previously Maryborough) is the county town. Laois was the subject of two Plantations or colonisations by English settlers. The first occurred in 1556, when the Thomas Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Sussex dispossessed the O'Moore clan and attempted to replace them with English settlers. However, this only led to a long drawn-out guerilla war in the county and left a small English community clustered around garrisons. There was a more successful plantation in the county in the 17th century, which expanded the existing English settlement with more landowners and tenants from England. Neither plantation was fully successful due to a lack of tenants and because of continuous raids and attacks by the O' Moores.

In 1659, a group of Quakers settled in Mountmellick, while a group of Huguenots were given refuge in Portarlington in 1666 after their service to William of Orange in the Williamite War in Ireland.

What followed was a period of relative calm. Anglo-Irish landowners enclosed the land and built fine houses, including Durrow Castle, Heywood House and Emo Court. In 1836, a branch of the Grand Canal stretched to Mountmellick, further stimulating industry in that town.

The Great Famine of 1845-49 devastated the county. The county’s workhouses could not cope with the number of destitute people seeking shelter. By the time the workhouse opened at Donaghmore in 1853, many of the poorest had emigrated or died.

Despite the change of the county's name in 1922, when land is sold in the county the relevant title deeds are still updated as being in Queen's County.

Some towns and villages of county Laois where we have researched Laois Ancestors are;

1. Abbeyleix 2. Portarlington. 3. Durrow 4. Stradbally 5. Emo 6. Mountrath. 7. Portlaoise 8. Castletown 9. Ballinakill 10. Ballyadams


If you need advice from one of our genealogy research team send a message and we will be happy to help. click HERE for more information


My Irish Ancestors have reduced our Preliminary Research by 65%

Was £130 Now £49.99 CLICK HERE for more information

Civil Parishes of County Laois

If you are researching Laois ancestors, there are many civil parishes in County Laois and the church registries can be researched in either the Public Records of Northern Ireland in Belfast or the National Library in Dublin. They are as follows;

1 Abbeyleix 2 Aghaboe 3 Aghmacart 4 Aharney 5 Ardea 6 Attanagh 7 Ballyadams 8 Ballyroan 9 Bordwell 10 Borris 11 Castlebrack 12 Clonenagh and Clonagheen 13 Cloydagh 14 Coolbanagher 15 Coolkerry 16 Curraclone 17 Donaghmore 18 Durrow 19 Dysartenos 20 Dysartgallen 21 Erke 22 Fossy or Timahoe 23 Glashare 24 Kilcolmanbane 25 Kilcolmanbrack 26 Kildellig 27 Killabban 28 Killenny 29 Killermogh 30 Killeshin 31 Kilmanman 32 Kilteale 33 Kyle 34 Lea 35 Monksgrange 36 Moyanna 37 Offerlane 38 Rathaspick 39 Rathdowney 40 Rathsaran 41 Rearymore 42 Rosconnell 43 Rosenallis 45 Shrule 46 Skirk 47 Sleaty 44 St. John's 48 Straboe 49 Stradbally 50 Tankardstown 51 Tecolm 52 Timogue 53 Tullomoy

Genealogy Sources for each Irish County

Antrim Armagh Carlow Cavan
Clare Cork Derry (Londonderry) Donegal
Down Dublin Fermanagh Galway
Kerry Kildare Kilkenny Laois
Leitrim Limerick Longford Louth
Mayo Meath Monaghan Offaly
Roscommon Sligo Tipperary Tyrone
Waterford Westmeath Wexford Wicklow

Major Sources of Irish Ancestry

Church Records Land Records Directories
Registry of Deeds Wills Emigration Records


If you need advice from one of our genealogy research team send a message and we will be happy to help. click HERE for more information


My Irish Ancestors have reduced our Preliminary Research by 65%

Was £130 Now £49.99 CLICK HERE for more information