County Kerry, Ireland Genealogy

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Guide to County Kerry ancestry, family history and genealogy: birth records, marriage records, death records, census records, parish registers, and military records.

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History

County Kerry (Irish: Contae Chiarraí) is a county in Ireland. It is located in the province of Munster. The county town is Tralee, Kerry. The name Kerry is derived from Ciarraighe, or "people of Ciar" the name of the pre-Gaelic tribe who lived in part of the present county. In Old Irish "Ciar" (pronounced keer) meant black or dark brown, and the word continues in use in modern Irish as an adjective describing a dark complexion. It comprises 4,746 km² (1,832 square miles) with its greatest length is 69 miles from Tarbert to Bolus Head. Its greatest breadth from Mweelin Mountain east of Kenmare to Ballydavid (Smerwick Harbour) is 53½ miles. 

Around 65 AD Ciar took possession of the land from the river Maine in the south and in the north to the mouth of river Shannon and included the Dingle Peninsula. Ciar was the progenitor of the O'Connor Kerry Clan. By the 6th century it was known as Ciarraige or Ciar's Kingdom. In 1329, Maurice FitzGerald became the first Earl of Desmond over the entire county.

Towards the end of the sixteenth century, the English began arriving and laying claim to the county. This began a series of wars between the English Protestants and the Irish Catholics with the English gaining control in 1652 as part of the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland. Kerry became increasingly populated by poor tenant farmers in the 17th and 18th centuries and was devastated by the Great Irish Famine of 1845-49.

In 1821, the population was 216,185 and continued to increase until 1841 to 293,880 just before the potato famine. The population was 238,254 in 1851 and decreased to 149, 171 in 1926. The population was 139,616 in 2006.

Kerry is predominately Roman Catholic. In 1861, 96.7% of the population were Roman Catholic with 3.1% of the Church of Ireland, 0.10% Presbyterians and 0.1% Methodists. There were small variations over the years. In 1911, 97.26% were Roman Catholic with 2.33% Church of Ireland, 0.17% Presbyterians and 0.17% Methodists.

General County Research Information

  • Further information about County Kerry is available at the GenUKI site.

Civil Jurisdictions and Parish Research Information

Civil Registration

Land and Property

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