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The Ireland List
Census Information Page

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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".

How reliable is the information given on the Census returns?

Names are almost always accurate, relationship to head of household are reliable for the primary family. The Head of Household's mother may be listed as a border or relative as the category "mother-in-law" isn't specified. Religion, is very reliable while education reports can vary in terms of accuracy.

Sometimes family members are missing. In the case of large families check the grandparents households. It was common practice to farm the older ones out to help grandparents run their farms so look for missing children with the older generation. In doing descent genealogy, it is a great help to find a grandchild living with the old couple as it points the way to a marriage of one of the family which you might not have known about.

The least reliable information is the ages reported. We take great delight in comparing 1901 and 1911 ages for the same individuals. Curious how grandfather ages 10 year while his wife ages 6 between the two census. More interesting are the 1901 50 years olds who are magically 65 in 1911. When we realise that the old age pension was introduced in 1909, it is apparent that the older members of the family took a greater interest in being accurate about their ages in order to qualify.

Often unmarried daughter appear a few years younger than their birth certificates indicate. The space of years between the children is usually reasonably accurate but their specific ages might be slightly wrong. It appears that the constable often estimated ages rather than obtaining specifics from the head of household. In many cases the ages should be taken with a grain of salt.

Rank and occupation are of interest to Family History Research. One can find some interesting entries on the Census. For Example, one Return showed the father described the 18 year old son as an "idle waster" while further down the family the cherished 6 year old daughter was described as an "idle pet". :)

Marital status is important as is the county of birth. The information supplied in regard to the Irish language is important in Gaeltacht areas. It provides useful statistics for the survival and revival of the Irish language.

The important addition to the 1911 returns are the three columns at #10, #11, and #12. Married women were asked 1-the number of years the marriage has lasted, 2- the number of children born and 3-the number of children alive in 1911. This information is almost always accurate. Widows were not expected to answer these questions but sometime we get lucky and find a widow has responded and then her response was either erased or crossed out. The information can still be made out. Sometimes a widow reports the number of years she had been married. This is a great help in locating the death record of her husband.

You should also look at the Head of Household list. When you receive the file containing the return you are interested in, note the list of heads of household at the beginning of the file. It contains the names of all the neighbours.

Other interesting information in the file are the tabulations of the number of residents by religion and the number of rooms each household occupy. So, don't just rush the file back once you have found your ancestor. Study the whole file and learn something about the "neighbourhood".

Some Substitutes for Missing Censuses

"Old Age Pensioner's Claims" (1841-51). In 1908 the Old Age Pension Act was passed and with this act came the need for proof of age. In many instances, census returns of 1841 and 1851 were used. In some cases, actual extracts are available for these censuses. In most cases, Old Age Pension Search Forms are all that survive. These search forms ask for the claimant's name, father, mother, exact address when census was taken, age in census, age at claim, and census year for which the search is requested. These records exist primarily for Northern Ireland and most are on film at the Genealogical Society.

"Tithe Applotment Books" (1823-38). This record provides a detailed account, parish by parish, of the land occupiers in each townland and includes the extent and value of their individual farms. Those in urban areas are not included. The Tithe Applotment Books for all of Ireland are on microfilm at the Genealogical Society. Indexes for these records are available at the Public Record Offices in Belfast and the National Library in Dublin.

Griffith's Valuation (1848-64). This government survey of all privately held lands and buildings was taken to determine the amount of tax that each person should pay toward support of the poor and destitute in each Poor Law Union. All occupiers or tenants, and the immediate lessors of all lands, buildings, etc. for private or business use were liable for the tax. In some areas, these valuations start in 1839; but the majority exist from

1848-64. Such information as the name of tenants, lessor, townland, parish, and tax will be found on these records. They exist for all of Ireland and for the most part are available at the Genealogical Society. An index by surname by parish and county is available at the National Library of Ireland in Dublin.

School Records (c. 1850-1920). These are primarily records of public schools and include names of pupils, ages, religion, days absent or present, occupation of parents, residence of family, and the name of the school. Sometime the name of the county and school last attended may be given or the cause of withdrawal and destination of the pupil. Most of these records are indexed and are at the Public Record Office in Dublin and Belfast or the Genealogical Office in Dublin. The Genealogical Society has microfilmed many of those available from Northern Ireland.

  1. "Special Thanks to Ellen Naliboff for providing the information (in quotes and footnoted) and other information concerning the Irish Census which we used to doublecheck the data we had gathered from other sources!" :)

The Irish in Other Countries

EMIGRATION FROM THE UNITED KINGDOM FROM 1825 TO 1849.
Years. North
American
Colonies.
United
States.
Australian
Colonies
and New
Zealand.
All
other
Places.
Total.
1825 8,741 5,551 485 114 14,891
1826 12,818 7,063 903 116 20,900
1827 12,648 14,526 715 114 28,003
1828 12,084 12,817 1,056 135 26,092
1829 13,307 15,678 2,016 197 31,198
1830 30,574 24,887 1,242 204 56,907
1831 58,067 23,418 1,561 114 83,160
1832 66,339 32,872 3,733 196 103,140
1833 28,808 29,109 4,093 517 62,527
1834 40,060 33,074 2,800 288 76,222
1835 15,573 26,720 1,860 325 44,478
1836 34,226 37,774 3,124 293 75,417
1837 29,884 36,770 5,054 326 72,034
1838 4,577 14,332 14,021 292 33,222
1839 12,658 33,536 15,786 227 62,207
1840 32,293 40,642 15,850 1,958 90,743
1841 38,164 45,017 32,625 2,786 118,592
1842 54,123 63,852 8,534 1,835 128,344
1843 23,518 28,335 3,478 1,881 57,212
1844 22,924 43,660 2,229 1,873 70,686
1845 31,803 58,538 830 2,330 93,501
1846 43,439 82,239 2,347 1,826 129,851
1847 109,680 142,154 4,949 1,487 258,270
1848 31,065 188,233 23,904 4,887 248,089
1849 41,367 219,450 32,091 6,590 299,498
Total 808,740 1,260,247 185,286 30,911 2,285,184

Average Annual Emigration from the United Kingdom for the last twenty five years: 91,407

U.S. Federal Census

Introduction

Since before the United States began it's fight for Independence, the Irish were coming to America. Not every Irish Emigrant came directly to the U.S. from Ireland, they sometimes came in through other countries like Canada.

Some of the Irish who enterred the US moved on, settling in other countries (like Canada, Mexico and even Australia), while most of the Irish Emigrants stayed in the U.S. Many of the Irish became a part of the backbone of the US by becoming Farmers and Common Laborers, while some found their way into the US Military and aided greatly in conquering the wild and woolly West.

Of course, to just put things in perspective, some of the Irish took up roles which were "less than Lawful", shall we say. :)

But due to the fact that not only Americans are descended from the Irish who came to America, the US Census ought to be noted. :)

About the Censuses of the United States

In 1790, the U.S. population was 3,231,533. This did not include slaves or the untaxed Indians. One of the main goals of the census was to provide information about men who were eligible for military duty. The US had only recently gained it's independence from England and the men of the day knew the importantance in the ability to assemble a viable military in the time of need. Their foresight turned out to be flawed, for in 1812, the British once again invaded the area that became the United States.

The federal census is taken every 10 years, in the year ending with zero. Individual states, however, often took their own Census (mostly for taxation purposes) in some of the years between the federal enumeration.

Much of the 1790 Census was destroyed by the British during the War of 1812. Some states were totally destroyed, others only partially. Whenever possible, tax lists from that era are used as an alternate source for names. The 1890 Census was mostly destroyed, but some extracts still exist.

The law states that the census shall remain private for 72 years. This is to encourage truthful answers, accurate information, and a sense of security for those giving Census data. Because of the 72 year law, the latest Census available to the public is the one taken in 1920 -- however the 1930 Census is due out in 2002 (more on this later).

ABOUT CENSUS TAKERS

Who were the Census Takers? And why is it important to know about them?

The Census Takers were ordinary people like you and me. Some were young, some old. In the earlier censuses, they were usually men on horseback, carrying their clipboards with blank census sheets ready to be filled with information. They may have been school teachers on summer break or farmers trying to supplement their income. They came from all walks of life and they all knew how to read and write. Usually they lived in the area they enumerated. The government paid them to go door to door with the goal of getting a head count of all people living in the United States.

Just like the people of today, some of the census takers were excellent workers producing accurate and legible records. They went to great pains to get all pertinent information and record the data carefully on their forms. However, also like the people of today, some were mainly interested in getting paid. These workers could really care less about the quality of the job they did. And, of course, you had the "Tweeners". These are the people who fall into all levels in-between the Best and Worst Worker.

How the Census Takers covered an area was mainly up to them, they could walk or ride many different paths or stop at houses as they saw fit in order to cover their territory. Any instructions concerning the paths a Census Taker should take could readily be dismissed by the Census Taker as soon as the Job was started. The only real requirement which was followed was the one stating that the Census Taker must cover the entire territory assigned. This is the reason why some People who live right next door to each other end up being listed several pages apart in the Census.

To be fair to the Census Taker, the patterns chosen to cover the area to be enumerated were usually logical -- as least as far as the Census Taker was concerned. The paths probably would make more sense to us today, if we were right there along side of the Enumerator and seeing first hand what went on during the Census Taking.

In farm land and rural areas, the paths of the census takers often meandered in seemingly strange patterns. However, if one had a fairly accurate map of where the houses sat in relation to each other, a lot of confusion may be made clear to us. >P> Workers in the cities usually followed a better pattern because of the closeness of the houses and buildings, however a census take could stop at any given house for his break or lunch and then resume at another house of his choosing. The Census Taker may have also seen a group of people across the street or a couple houses away who looked as if they were leaving for the day or longer, so he decided to get them while the getting was good.

When the people weren't home or if there were only the children or babysitter present to answer the census questions, some workers filled in the blanks from their own personal knowledge or made educated guesses based upon what the children or babysitter may have said. The Census Taker supposedly also relied on what neighbors said as well.

Even though a Census Taker was often from the area he was Enumerating, this did not mean he could understand all the languages spoken or make sense of the accents people had. So even though the people may have been home and questioned, the Census Taker "guessed" at what the people were saying, i.e. wrote down what he thought he heard.

There are a myriad of reasons why the Census contains errors and missing data on it. The reasons are probably as numerous as there were Census Takers. But, no matter what the excuse was, the end result is that we are stuck trying to decipher the information the best we can. :)

One thing to remember when reviewing Census Data is the guideline of ages and birth years being plus or minus 3 years. This doesn't always apply, but it reminds people that Census information is not always correct. :)

Another thing stated is to remember that names were sometimes spelled by the Census Taker as it sounded. This accounts for some of the strange spellings of names and for how names changed from one census to the next.

And thirdly, Children can change sex and names from Census to Census. :) Numerous people reported finding their Great Grandmothers, Great Aunts and other Female ancestors as males on one census or another... and their names were even written as the male version of the name in some cases.

Lucky for us, most of the questions were usually answered by an adult in the household who knew enough data to make the information on the census generally correct.

Some Census Trivia

  • There was no Federal census taken before 1790.
  • The earlier the census, the fewer questions were asked. The first one only asked 7 questions.
  • Parts of the census were lost or destroyed.
  • Many census takers were poorly trained or didn't take thier responsibility seriously.
  • Families were sometimes left off the census because they were away visiting relatives or they lived in multi-family dwellings and were overlooked.
  • Some census takers didn't follow directions and left off answers for some of the questions.
  • If adults were not home, sometimes answers were requested of small children or neighbors or the enumerator guessed the answers himself.
  • Incorrect answers were given due to poor memory or lack of understanding the question.
  • Poor quality of paper and/or ink, as well as handwriting.
  • The quality of microfilm can be poor, making copy too dark or too small or otherwise unreadable.
  • If the person lived in a large city, you must know which part of the city or the ward in which he lived in order to perform a search.

What is on the US Census?

I am only going to post information for "the General Key Years" for the US Census. When referring to "Key Years" of the Census, one should remember that "Key Years differ for each individual, however there are also "Key Years" which affect everyone.

There are several reasons why the attempt is not made to post the data for all the U.S. Censuses. Those reasons don't really need to be stated here and I am sure many people would agree. :)

The 1790 Census

This is the FIRST federal census of the United States. The 17 States included in this census were: Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia.

Questions Asked:

  1. Name of head of household
  2. Address<
  3. Free white males of 16 years and up, including head of family
  4. Free white males under 16
  5. Free white females, including head of family
  6. All other free persons
  7. Slaves

The only name given is for Head of Household. All others enumerated are listed with fencepost tally marks.

The 1850 Census

This is the seventh federal census taken for the United States. For the first time since the census began, all persons in each household are listed by name. And that's not the only good news. The birthplace for each person is listed.

All dwellings in each census district were given a number. Each family was also assigned an identification number. Each census sheet listed the county as well as town or township.

Questions Asked:

  1. Dwelling number
  2. Family number
  3. Name
  4. Age
  5. Sex
  6. Color
  7. Occupation, etc.
  8. Value of real estate
  9. Birthplace
  10. Married within the year
  11. School within the year
  12. Cannot read or write
  13. Enumeration date
  14. Whether a pauper or convict

The Census of 1930


"Please click on the Image for a full picture"

The reason this information is placed here is solely because the 1930 Census is due out with in the next year. Some people might appreciate the "Sneak Peak".

What is on it?

Place of Abode:

  1. Street, avenue, road, etc.
  2. House number (in cities or towns).
  3. Number of dwelling house in order of visitation.
  4. Number of family in order of visitation.
  5. Name of each person whose place of abode on April 1, 1930, was in this family. Enter surname first, then the given name and middle initial, if any. Include every person living on April 1, 1930. Omit children born since April 1, 1930.
  6. Relationship of this person to the head of the family.

    Home Data:

  7. Home owned or rented.
  8. Value of home, if owned, or monthly rental, if rented.
  9. Radio set.
  10. Does this family live on a farm?

    Personal description:

  11. Sex.
  12. Color or race.
  13. Age at last birthday.
  14. Marital condition.
  15. Age at first marriage.

    Education:

  16. Attended school or college any time since September 1, 1929.
  17. Whether able to read and write.

    Place of Birth:

    Place of birth of each person enumerated and of his or her parents. If born in the United States, give the State or Territory. If of foreign birth, give country in which birthplace is now situated. Distinguish Canada-French from Canada-English, and Irish Free State from Northern Ireland.

  18. Person.
  19. Father.
  20. Mother.

    Mother Tongue (or native language) of Foreign Born:

  21. Language spoken at home before coming to the United States.

    Citizenship, etc.:

  22. Year of immigration to the United States.
  23. Naturalization.
  24. Whether able to speak English.

    Occupation and Industry:

  25. Occupation: Trade, profession, or particular kind of work, as spinner, salesman, riveter, teacher, etc..
  26. Industry: Industry or business, as cotton mill, dry goods store, shipyard, public school, etc.
  27. Class of worker.

    Employment:

    Whether actually at work yesterday (or the last regular working day):

  28. Yes or No.
  29. If not, line number of Unemployment Schedule.

    Veterans:

    Whether a veteran of U.S. military or naval forces:

  30. Yes or No.
  31. What war or expedition.
  32. Number of farm schedule.

Census Release Date

The 1930 census and all existing soundex indexes will become available on April 1, 2002 at the National Archives Building, 700 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20408-0001, and at Regional Facilities in 13 major cities. The 1930 and later censuses are not available for public use because of a statutory 72-year restriction on access for privacy reasons. (92 Stat. 915; Public Law 95-416; October 5, 1978).

The census day was April 1, 1930.

How to Get Information Before April 2002

If you need information about yourself or a deceased person from the 1930 or later censuses for legal or other purposes, get a Form BCC-600 from the Bureau of the Census Age Search Service and return the form with the required fee to that agency. Forms are also available by writing to: U.S. Census Bureau, National Processing Center, 1201 East 10th St., Jeffersonville, IN 47132.

1930 Federal Population Census

IRISH CENSUS RETURNS AT THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES IN DUBLIN:

Irish Census Records and Substitutes for Missing Censuses

Finding Treasures in the U.S. Federal Census

Enumeration Forms

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