The strange afterlife of the census microfilms
The method used by the National Archives of Ireland to digitise its genealogical records was sensible and straightforward. It took the existing microfilms (all created by the LDS Church) as the starting point and used digital images created from the microfilms as the basis of transcription and to provide an online copy of the original.
So far so good.
The first result is that the online collections include any flaws in the microfilms. For instance, the 1901 microfilms omitted the reverse of all Form As, which contain useful place-name identifiers, and so these are missing from the online image collection.
The second result is that it is possible to use the online image collections as if they were microfilm, scrolling forward and back through them in sequence.
How do you do this? In your browser address-bar, you’ll see something like “census.nationalarchives.ie/reels/nai002500860/”. Just add 1 to that number to go forward a frame and subtract 1 to go back.
But the real question is why in the name of all that’s holy would anyone want to treat these image collections as if they were microfilm? Haven’t we spent half our lives praying for an escape from microfilm?
We don’t get away that easy. Just one example: the 1911 finding aid used to oversee the transcriptions included a category “Townland”. Many enumerators’ returns for small, single-street villages left the townland name blank and entered the name under “City, Urban District, Town or Village”. But where the finding aid left the townland blank, the transcribers presumed there were no returns and left it untranscribed. So around forty smallish villages are imaged online, but not findable by searching the 1911 database of transcripts.
The only way to research them is by going to the initial image and scrolling through them by hand. Precisely as if you were at one of those blasted microfilm machines.
So now you know why you couldn’t find Ballaghdereen and Moate and Kinvara in 1911.
Below is a table of the omissions I know of, with a link to the initial file. Let me know if you come across more.
Street-villages untranscribed in 1911, but imaged online
|County||Start file||DED Name||Comment|
|GALWAY||nai002426479||Mount Bellew||Mount Bellew Demesne|
|KILDARE||nai002561729||Celbridge||Celbridge town, Tea Lane|
|TYRONE||nai003434634||Stewartstown||Stewartstown village, West Street|
|WATERFORD||nai003475372||Dungarvan No. 1 Urban||Part of Mitchel Street|
|WICKLOW||nai003641691||Glendalough||All of Glendalough DED missing|