by Ken MacDermotRoe

For the Irish genealogist, the 18th century is a particularly difficult period in which to research. In the 19th century, the researcher may avail himself of the Tithe Applotment Books, Griffiths Valuation, church records and, for the latter part of the century, civil vital statistics records. However, in the 18th century, the researcher often has few records to work with and these records, such as real estate transactions and will indices, record only a small proportion of the population.

Thus, the MacDermots Roe are especially fortunate to have available the Elphin Census of 1749. This Census covering about 20,000 individuals living in the Diocese of Elphin, (much of County Roscommon and some adjoining areas) is unique among 18th century Irish records. It provides a rare and valuable glimpse at real population figures in Ireland in mid-18th century Connaught.

The Census of Elphin was undertaken at the instance of Elphin Bishop Edward Synge. Bishop Synge of the Protestant Church of Ireland was particularly interested in learning the percentages of Protestant and Catholics in the diocese. Nonetheless, his census takers went well beyond a mere religious census. Every family in Elphin Diocese is shown in the Census with the name of the head of the household, as well as, the family's location by parish and townland. The Census, also, contains valuable information, such as the resident's occupation, the number of his children by age category and his religion.

The Elphin Census covers the following areas:

County Roscommon

- 51 of the 59 parishes are included (not included are Castlemore, Creagh, Drum, Kilcolman, Kilronan, Kiltullagh, Moore and Taghmaconnell),
County Galway

- 8 parishes are included (Ahascragh, Ballynakill, Dunamon, Kilbegnet, Kilcroan, Killeroran, Killian, Killosolan)

County Sligo

- 13 parishes are included (Aghanagh, Ahamlish, Ballynakill, Ballysumaghan, Drumcliff, Drumcolumb, Killadoon, Kilmacallan, Kilmactranny, Kilross, St John's, Shancough, Tawnagh).

While the Census includes most of Roscommon, it omits certain parishes where we know that from other sources that MacDermots Roe resided. Conspicuous among these omitted parishes is Kilronan which may have had the highest number of MacDermots Roe in 1749.

As noted in other contexts, the appellation Roe is recorded inconsistently. Therefore, the number of households listed with the Roe in the Elphin Census should not be taken as the final word as to the total number of families who regarded themselves as MacDermots Roe in 1749. An example of a MacDermotRoe who is omitted from the count of MacDermots Roe is Thomas MacDermot Roe of Casthlemeehan, Kilbride Parish, County Roscommon. Although Thomas appears as a McDermott, we know from real estate records that he was, in fact, a MacDermot Roe.

The Elphin shows a total of 16 MacDermots Roe out of a total of 295 McDermotts (including all variants of the name) amounting to only 5 %. Even allowing for the failure to properly record the appellation and for the omission of Kilronan, there was a sharp decline in McDermotts identifying themselves as MacDermots Roe as compared to the early 1600's. Lease records from the early 1600's show that as many as 50% of McDermotts identified themselves as MacDermots Roe at that time.

The Elphin Census showed that the use of the surname variation Dermott was surprisingly common in County Roscommon in the mid-18th century.. Of the 295 McDermotts in the Census, 76 or 26% were listed as Dermotts. This shows that the change from MaacDermott to Dermot was not just a practice associated with McDermotts that move to the city as, for example, the Dermotts of Usher Quay, Dublin. Like their urban cousins, the Roscommon Dermotts evidently reverted to McDermott in the 19th century.

The Elphin Census is now available on line by subscription from Irish Origins at The data was edited by Marie-Lousie Begg, with a excellent statistical analysis by Brian Gurrin.

The following are the MacDermots Roe who appear in the Elphin Census:

 First Name  County  Parish  Townland  Occupation  Ch<14  Ch>14  Servants
 Phil   Rosc  Ardcarn  Oxhill  shoemaker  1  2  
 P   Rosc  Tibohin  Carrokeel  laborer  3  3  
 T   Rosc  Tibohin  Edon  carrman  3  1  
 P   Rosc  Tibohin  Mullinashe  laborer    2  
 H   Rosc  Tibohin  Clegarna  weaver      
 Thomas   Rosc  Ardcarn  Kilfaghna  laborer  2    
 Con   Rosc  Ardcarn  Kilfaghna  laborer  1    
 Ter   Rosc  Ardcarn  Creevah  laborer  3    2
 T   Rosc  Tibohin  Edon  carrman  7    2
 John   Rosc  Ardcarn  Fanagh  laborer  2    
 Mattw   Rosc  Boyle  Boyle  M.D.  2  1  2
 Terce   Rosc  Boyle  Boyle  cooper  2  3  1
 Michl   Rosc  Boyle  Grangemore  laborer  1  1  
 Owen   Rosc Boyle  Cornamilta  mason    2  
 R.M.   Rosc  Tumna  Gobbertasnan  laborer  4    
 Gerald   Rosc  Kilbride  Carrowirin  cotter  1    2

Source: Irish Origins, Elphin Census of 1749, Marie-Louise Begg, editor

Notes: All MacDermot Roe families were Catholic except for Phil of Oxhill who was recorded as Protestant. "Mattw" was a son of Henry Baccach and Mary MacDermot Roe of Alderford, Kilronan Parish.

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