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Irish Roots

February 28th, 2011

John Grenham


This seems like a good time to start reminding people of their promises. From p. 77 of the Fine Gael manifesto: “Genealogy Tourism: Fine Gael will examine the feasibility of releasing the 1926 census to stimulate genealogy tourism.”

In fact, all that’s needed for the release of the 1926 census is a simple direction to the Central Statistics Office. The CSO is the body in charge of the census, and is wary of breaching the 100-year embargo on the release of personal data from census records which, it argues, helps to ensure the accuracy of future censuses by guaranteeing confidentiality. But the 100-year rule only dates from the 1993 Statistics Bill and cannot apply to the 1926 returns. Apart from the legal position, the 1926 census is historically exceptional. It was the first census for 15 years and, along with the 1911 returns, provides an extremely important before-and-after snapshot of the most tumultuous decade in Irish history.

Further, the very act of digitising the records means that redacting them to control which details are public is simplicity itself. As to potential demand, the half-a-billion hits on the National Archives 1901 and 1911 census website demonstrate the sheer scale of the hunger for information like this. The tourism spin-off benefits are as plain as day. And it need cost the state nothing: the records are already fully catalogued and physically accessible, and there are a considerable number of commercial research companies who would leap at the chance to bear the entire expense of digitisation in return for market rights over a limited number of years.

The sooner it is done the more valuable it will be. As everyone who has moved house knows, furniture is easier to re-arrange in the first few weeks. Untaken decisions acquire their own inertia.


Comments and suggestions are welcome, to irishrootsatirishtimes.com.


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