Census in Ireland

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This article originally appeared in Finding Answers in British Isles Census Records by Echo King, AG.


Due to its physical proximity, and the frequent migration of people to and from Ireland, it is worth discussing the basics of the census in Ireland. The first census in Ireland took place in 1813. The next census was taken in 1821, and every ten years thereafter until 1911. Due to civil war, the next census was not until 1926 and then again in 1936. From 1946 to 1971 censuses were taken every five years. Since 1971, a census has been taken every ten years.

The census of 1813 no longer exists. Most of the returns from 1821 to 1851 were destroyed in a fire. The government destroyed all of the returns from 1861 to 1891 once the statistical information had been compiled. The censuses of 1901 and 1911 are archived at the National Archives in Dublin.

The National Archives
Bishop Street
Dublin 8
Tel: 353 (1) 407 2300
Fax: 353 (1) 407 2333
E-mail: mail@nationalarchives.ie

The 1901 and 1911 censuses are available on line, The site is http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search/

The questions asked on the Irish census are different than those on the censuses for England, Wales, and Scotland. For the surviving censuses of 1821 to 1851, the only one that did not request individual information for every member of the house is 1831. All of the others asked about each individual and include questions regarding name, age, occupation, and relationship to the head of the house. In 1841 and 1851, the marital status, sex, and birthplace was also recorded.

In 1851, two additional forms were available. One was for absent members of the house and the other was for members of the household that had died since the last census. The latter form is valuable as it records date of and age at death for those individuals.

The 1901 and 1911 censuses asked about name, age, sex, relationship to the head of the house, religion, occupation, marital status, county of birth (except for foreign births, which give country only), whether the individual spoke Irish, and whether the individual could read or write. The 1911 census also had questions for married women, including the number of years she had been married to her current husband, the number of children that had been born to them, and the number of their children who were still alive.

A more detailed examination of the census of Ireland, and Irish records in general, can be found in Finding Your Irish Ancestors: A Beginner’s Guide, by David Ouimette (Ancestry, 2005).

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