Irish Census Records


Official Censuses in Ireland

Full government censuses of the whole island were taken in 1821, 1831, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911. The first four-1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851-were largely destroyed in the fire at the Public Record Office in 1922; surviving fragments are detailed in the county source-lists. Those for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 were completely destroyed prior to 1922, by order of the government. This means that the earliest surviving comprehensive returns are for 1901 and 1911. Because of this, the normal rule that census returns should not be available to the public for a hundred years was suspended in the Republic in the 1960s, and microfilm copies of both 1901 and 1911 can be consulted in The National Archives of Ireland and online at its census website, www.census.nationalarchives.ie. Microfilm copies are also available via the lds Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

1821 Census Fragments



This census, organized by townland, civil parish, barony and county, took place on May 28th 1821, and aimed to cover the entire population. It recorded the following information:
  • name;
  • age;
  • occupation;
  • relationship to the head of the household;
  • acreage of land holding;
  • number of storeys of house.
1821 census
[Click for larger image]

Almost all the original returns were destroyed in 1922, with only a few volumes surviving for parts of Cos. Cavan, Fermanagh, Galway, Meath and Offaly (King's County). These are now in The National Archives of Ireland, and full details of call numbers and areas covered will be found in the county source-lists. The overall reliability of the population figures produced by the 1821 census has been questioned, but there is no doubt as to the genealogical value of the returns. Once again, however, the ages given need to be treated with scepticism. NAI is currently engaged in a collaboration with the Family History Library of the LDS church to digitise all surviving records and make them available free online.

1831 census

Again organised by townland, civil parish, barony and county, this census recorded :

  • name;
  • age;
  • occupation;
  • relationship to the head of the household;
  • acreage of land-holding;
  • religion.

Very little of this survives, with most of the remaining official fragments relating to Co. Derry. This was the first census to record religion and was therefore of interest in ongoing local sectarian arguments, and quite a few local copies were made to provide ammunition. Details of locations and call numbers of any such copies are in the county source-lists. NAI is currently engaged in a collaboration with the Family History Library of the LDS church to digitise these records and make them available free online.

1841

Unlike in the two earlier censuses, the householders themselves filled out these returns, rather than government enumerators. The information supplied was:

  • name;
  • age;
  • occupation;
  • relationship to the head of the household;
  • date of marriage;
  • literacy;
  • absent family members;
  • family members who died since 1831.

Only one set of original returns survived 1922, that for the parish of Killeshandra in Co. Cavan. There are, however, a number of transcripts of the original returns. The 1841 census was the earliest to be of use when state Old Age Pensions were introduced in the early twentieth century, and copies of the household returns from 1841 and 1851 were sometimes used as proof of age. The forms detailing the results of searches in the original returns to establish age have survived and are found in NAI for areas in the Republic, and in proni for areas now in its jurisdiction. Copies of the Northern Ireland returns are also available at the LDS Library. County-by-county indexes to the areas covered, giving the names of the individuals concerned, are found on open shelves in the NAI reading room.

1851

This recorded the following:

  • name;
  • age;
  • occupation;
  • relationship to the head of the household;
  • date of marriage;
  • literacy;
  • absent family members;
  • family members who died since 1841;
  • religion.

Most of the surviving returns relate to parishes in Co. Antrim, and details will be found in Chapter 13. An online transcript, of doubtful accuracy, is also available. The comments above on transcripts and abstracts of the 1841 census also apply to 1851.

1861, 1871, 1881, 1891

The official destruction of the returns for these years was commendably thorough: virtually nothing survives. The only transcripts are contained in the Catholic registers of Enniscorthy (1861) and Drumcondra and Loughbraclen, Co. Meath (1871).