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Getting Started with the Irish Census

As family historians, we love census records. They
provide a snapshot of people and their families and communities over time. They
can give us clues for births, marriages, and deaths. They help tell the story
of our ancestors’ lives.

If you have roots in Ireland, Irish census records may
be a valuable resource for you. Becoming familiar with what’s available and
where to find it will help you make the best use of Irish censuses in finding
your ancestors.

Irish Censuses: What’s
Available, and Where Is It?

In Ireland, censuses were taken at irregular intervals until 1821, after which they were taken every 10 years. The latest census to be released is the 1911. The next census, taken in 1926, is currently scheduled to be released in 2027 (after the 101-year waiting period).

a family counted in the irish census.

Not surprisingly, Irish census records reflect the country’s unsettled past. Many census records were lost when the Public Record Office was destroyed in 1922. Only fragments remain of those records. In addition, the government destroyed original census records from 1861 through 1891 after compiling statistics from them.

Because
so many census records were destroyed, and because the information in different
censuses can vary so widely, here’s a summary of what you can find and where
you can find it.

Ireland 1740 Census

Description: Census of Protestant householders.

Coverage: Original returns were destroyed in 1922. Partial transcripts survived for counties Armagh, Antrim, Derry, Donegal, Down, Longford, and Tyrone.

Availability: Hard copies are held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and the National Library of Ireland. No online source is known.

Ireland 1766 Census

Description: Census taken to record religious affiliation (Catholic or Protestant).

Coverage: Most original returns were destroyed in 1922. Surviving returns cover the dioceses of Armagh, Cashel and Emly, Cork and Ross, and Waterford.

Some
transcripts also survived, mainly for North Cork, Limerick, Londonderry, Louth,
and Wicklow.

Availability: Ancestry.com or Family History Library films 100173 and 100220. Both of these sources are taken from a list of about 11,000 names created by A. T. Groves. In addition, the National Archives of Ireland has published a Guide to the Religious Census of 1766, which provides additional help for locating surviving returns.

a map of ireland in the 1700s, when censuses would have been taken.

Ireland 1813 Census

Description: Census of the total population of Ireland.

Coverage: According to P. Froggatt in an article in Irish Historical Studies, the results of this census were defective and so were never printed or given to Parliament. Even before the destruction of the Public Record Office in 1922, few returns were known to exist.

Availability: No surviving returns are known to exist.

Ireland 1814 Census

Description: A statistician by the name of William Shaw Mason asked clergy from the Church of Ireland and the Presbyterian Church to help correct 1813 census returns for their congregations. This collection contains the clergy’s correspondence and returns.

Coverage: Original returns were destroyed in 1922.

Availability: Extracts may exist in Irish genealogical collections.

Ireland 1821 Census

Description: Census of the total population of Ireland. For each person, this census lists the name, age, occupation, and relationship to the head of the household. Also included are the acreage held by the head of the household and the number of stories for each dwelling.  

Coverage: Fragments remain for counties Antrim, Armagh, Carlow, Cavan, Cork, Dublin, Fermanagh, Galway, Kildare, Kilkenny, King’s (Offaly), Laois (Leix or Queen’s), Limerick, Mayo, Meath, Tipperary, Waterford, and Wexford.

Availability: FamilySearch Historical Records; FamilySearch films; Find My Past; National Archives of Ireland.

Note: Not every repository has all fragments. If you don’t find a county in one repository, check another one.

Ireland 1831 Census

Description: Census of the total population of Ireland. For each person, this census lists the head of the household, the number of children and adults in the household, and the religious affiliation of each person.

Coverage: Counties Antrim, Kilkenny, and Londonderry.

Availability: FamilySearch Historical Records; FamilySearch films; Find My Past; National Archives of Ireland.

Note: Not every repository has all fragments. If you don’t find a county in one repository, check another one.

Ireland 1834 Census

Description: Count of Catholics and Protestants initiated by Parliament member Daniel O’Connell.

Coverage: Unknown.

Availability: The FamilySearch Research Wiki notes that “many of these census lists have been published in various genealogical, historical, and archaeological periodicals in Ireland.” One such example is the County Kerry Genealogy website, which has transcriptions of census data for the parishes of Prior and Keelimila in County Kerry.

a comic from ireland in the 1850s

Ireland 1841 Census

Description: Census of the total population of Ireland. For each person, this census lists the name, age, sex, relationship to the head of the household, marital status (and if married, the number of years married), occupation, and birthplace.

In addition, this census has two schedules that were completed, if
applicable. One schedule lists absent members of the household; for each one,
it provides the standard census information and the current residence.

The second schedule lists members of the household who died
since the previous census. For each one, the schedule provides the cause and
year of death, age at death, sex, relationship to the head of the household,
and occupation.

Coverage: Originals for Killeshandra in County Cavan; some transcripts for counties Kilkenny, Monaghan, Cork, Fermanagh, and Waterford.

Availability: FamilySearch Historical Records; FamilySearch films; findmypast; National Archives of Ireland.

Note: Not every repository has all fragments. If you don’t find a county in one repository, check another one.

Ireland
1851 Census   

Description: Census of the total population of Ireland. This census lists the same information as the 1841 census.

Coverage: Original fragments for County Antrim and Clonee in County Fermanagh; some transcripts for County Monaghan; lists of heads of households for Dublin City and a ward in Belfast; some census extracts for County Kilkenny parishes.

Availability: FamilySearch Historical Records; National Archives of Ireland

Ireland 1901 Census

Description: Census of the total population of Ireland. For each person, this census lists name, age, sex, relationship to head of household, religion, occupation, marital status, birth county (except for foreign births, which give the country only), whether the individual spoke Irish, and whether the individual could read or write.

Coverage: Full.

Availability: FamilySearch Historical Records; National Archives of Ireland

Ireland 1911 Census

Description: The census lists the same information as the 1901 census and adds the following information for married women:

  • Number of years married to current husband
  • Number of children born
  • Number of children still alive

Coverage: Full.

Availability: FamilySearch Historical Records; National Archives of Ireland

The Ireland1922 public records fire.

What to Do If the Census
You Need Is Missing

It’s heartbreaking to think of lost census records. Fortunately, other records often contain at least some of the same information. Census substitutes include records such as National School Registers, commercial directories, land records, and more.

Irish census records and substitutes can open doors and solve puzzles. Keep them in your genealogy toolbox—they may help you find the family you’re looking for!

The subject of this article and some of its material was taken from Craig Foster’s class, “Irish Census Records at the National Archives of Ireland Website ,” at the 2019 BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy.

The BYU Conference on Family History and Genealogy is held annually and offers classes for genealogists and others wanting to learn about their ancestors. Keep an eye on the BYU conference page for announcements about next year’s schedule and when registration opens.

Source: Family Search

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