The Irish / British Genealogy Group Message Board › IRISH CENSUS RETURNS & ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF INFO - Part 1
New York, NY
I was doing some BMD "mathematics" alongside with census returns and came across this article on the web. It will be in sections as I've learned there is a character restriction by post!
Irish Census Returns
"Caesar Augustus issued a decree for a census of the whole world to be taken. This census - the first - took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria, and everyone went to his own town to be registered." (Luke)
Irish Census Returns are a peculiarly fragmented and widely dispersed body of records. The Census of Ireland circa 1659 was compiled by Sir William Pender and is available in the National Archives. It only gives the names of titled landowners and the total number of residents in townlands.
On 28th May 1821, Government appointed enumerators set forth to take a census of the population. For each household they listed names, ages, occupations and relationship to head of household plus the acreage held by the householder and how many stories were in the dwelling house. This goldmine of information was perhaps, the single most disastrous loss in the 1922 explosion at the Four Courts. Some fragments relating to parts of Cavan, Galway, Kings County, Meath and Fermanagh somehow survived and are at the National Archives.
In 1831, a census following the 1921 format was taken but it too was in the Public Records Office in June 1922. Some parts of Londonderry survived and are at the Archives as well.
The 1841 census the only original returns to survive the fire are for the parish of Killeshandra, Co. Cavan.
The 1851 Census, some returns for Co. Antrim "and a few in Co Fermanagh" (1) survived.
The census returns for the 1861 and 1871 were destroyed, not by the accidental fire during the civil war but by government order. These census were used for statistical reasons and were then deliberately destroyed for confidentiality considerations shortly after the enumeration. "The only transcripts are found in the Catholic registers of Enniscorthy, Co.Wexford, (1861), and Drumcondra and Loughbraclen, Co. Meath (1871).." (1)
The Census of 1881 and 1891 were also destroyed by government order. These precious returns were pulped during World War I due to paper shortages. Fortunately, the remaining census returns are being conserved by the National Archives.
The 1901 and 1911 Census were administered under the office of the Registrar General under the Census (Ireland) Acts 1900, 1910. The General Register Office retained custody of these returns until 1929. The GRO was located in Charlemont House, the present day Municipal Gallery of Art. This is how the returns escaped the destruction of 30th June 1922 when the treasury of the Public Records Office burned its way into history.
To compensate for the loss suffered in 1922, the GRO released the 1901 and 1911 Census returns depositing them in the rebuilt Public Records Office at the Four Courts. Between 1990 and 1992 the Public Records Office was relocated to the new National Archives in Bishop Street, where they are available for research.
No census was taken in 1921 due to Civil War.
The first Census for the Irish Free State was taken in 1926 but as a privacy act is applied, the chances of this census being released before 2026 are remote.
"How can I see the Irish Census Information?"
The First thing to try is your Local Family History Center. The FHC has a lot of information in books, on Microfilm (and MicroFiche) and on Computer. In addition, they get new data in quite regularly. If they don't have any Irish Census Records, they may know who you can contact locally or where you can go to see the Irish Census.
The Second thing to try is a search for Books containing Irish Census information. Get the ISBN and Book Information and go to you local Library to try to get the book through an Inter-Library Loan. The Library might be able to get the book in Book form or on Microfilm... it all depends on what is available.
Both of the items mentioned above are a lot cheaper than buying books or flying to Ireland, which brings up the third and fourth options. :) You can look for books which contain Irish Census Extracts, or you can go to Europe and check out the Irish Censuses first hand. :)
"If you go to the National Archives, then they should have instructions to follow on "Accessing" the Census returns. There is really no need to discuss those here, except to say that one should take care in how they handle those original records."
These are not the only ways to get the job of searching the Irish Census done, you can find people who don't mind doing look-ups or pay a professional genealogist to do the job for you -- for example. Eventually the Irish Census may follow the path of other records and be placed online, however as far as I know that isn't even in the works yet.
Who were the Census Takers?
In both 1901 and 1911, the census takers were members of the Royal Irish Constabulary in rural areas and the Metropolitan Police in cities. Given the political climate, your ancestors may have been wary of telling the police officer, or an authority figure from the Government, too much personal information. So beware of accepting the information on Censuses as being "Always True and Accurate".