The landscape around Killeshandra is dominated by a system of lakes known as the Lough Oughter system feeding into the river Erne. The origins of which date back many millions of years to a time regarded as the Ice-Age when the glacial melt waters carved their way to the sea leaving behind them the lakes and drumlin hills landscape we can see today, uniquely recognised by UNESCO as part of the Marble Arch Caves global geopark.
Lough Oughter and its associated lakes is a Special Area of Conservation with shallow natural lakes and bog woodland rich in wildlife. The lakes themselves have been used as human highways for navigation over thousands of years. There are signs of habitation going back at least five thousand years to be seen within the nearby Killykeen forest park.
The town of Killeshandra was founded in the early seventeenth century as part of an Ulster Plantation project. The name Killeshandra is taken from the Irish Cill na Seanratha, meaning church of the old rath or ringfort. This was an earlier lakeside structure dating from the fourteenth century built by monks from the nearby Drumlane Augustinian priory, already here when the plantation of Scottish settlers arrived
The original plantation patentee was Sir Alexander Hamilton, but it was his son Claud who set about building a castle (Castle Hamilton) and twenty homes for plantation settlers. The old rath church was then used for reformed episcopalian worship and continued in use until a new Anglican church was build in the town in 1842. Other denominations also built their own churches in Killeshandra around the same time, as the original rath church was unroofed and left to decay. The old graveyard continued in mixed denomination use by the community until relatively recently.
The fortunes of Killeshandra down through the centuries have been mixed, whereby the late seventeenth century brought about hardship caused by civil wars both for plantation settlers and gaelic Irish living in the region. What began with the Irish trying to force the planters out eventually led to a tighter squeeze on the Irish themselves losing out. The following centuries brought about a change of fortunes with Killeshandra becoming a prominent linen market town. A new market house was built in the 1790's and trade was reported as doing quite well during the following decades, right up until the period of the Famine in the 1840's. Killeshandra's cottage linen trade began to suffer significantly as linen industrialisation took over in the northern counties. Local flax growers had little spare land available for growing food crops.
The building of railways brought about a revival of fortunes, and although this didn't arrive here until the 1880's it did however create significant employment through buildings and ironing of the drumlin countryside, linking Killeshandra to Cavan town and further afield. Significant emigration to Britain and the New Worlds began even before the famine, just as industry and farming around Killeshandra became the bedrock for those families who remained. New sawmills were set up by the end of the nineteenth century, and the beginnings of the Agricultural Dairy Cooperative Society saw farmers pooling their milk supply to produce a market for local butter and dairy products exported around the world to the present day.
Frequently we get overseas visitors to Killeshandra in search of their ancestors, who have come to see where their famiies emigrated from. We always do our best to point them in the right direction ie, graveyard searches or try to guide them to the exact location where their ancestors may have once lived. For those determined enough to continue their search, then the best place to start is online using family search websites. While visitors who wish to carry out their own search of local records can do this at the Cavan Johnston Central Library located in Cavan town, or through the expertise of the Genealogical Research Centre located in the same building.
The County Genealogy Research Centre is based in the Central Johnston Library & Farnham Centre in Cavan town (about 20km from Killeshandra) and offers a genealogical research service for people with Cavan ancestry. The genealogy centre contains many primary (but not all) local church registers of baptisms, marriages, burials dating back to the eighteenth century. Irish civil records of births, deaths, marriages date from 1864. Census records for 1901 and 1911 as well as some earlier Killeshandra census records are available free online. Pre and post famine land records and numerous other records such as Griffith Valuations are also available. The centre has computerised almost one million records relating to individuals who resided in County Cavan before 1901.
The Cavan genealogy research centre's Killeshandra church records, which include Roman Catholic parish records for baptisms, marriages & burials date from around 1835. The earliest Church of Ireland (Anglican/Episcopalian) records date from 1703. The final starting date of Church of Ireland parish records in County Cavan is 1854. Presbyterian records commenced in 1822. The centre also possesses computerised records of smaller denominations which have starting dates between 1835 and 1879.
Other genealogical records and directories held by the genealogy research centre include:
Fiants , will indexes , Slater's and Pigot's directories , hearth money rolls , 1821 census , 1766 religious census , registry of freeholders , gravestone inscriptions, publications. There are also several local history and guide books written by local authores to be found in the libraries reference section.
The research centre has publications for sale including:
‘Cavan - Essays on the History of an Irish county’
‘Diocese of Kilmore’, ‘A Genealogical History of the O'Reillys’
‘The Bréifne Historical Journal’.
Contact Cavan Genealogy Centre
Cavan Genealogy Centre
Johnston Library & Farnham Centre
Farnham Street, Cavan
t: +353 (0)49 4331942
For more more information on Genealogy & Local Heritage contact us