Census records thought lost in Civil War explosion put online
Remains of 19th century censuses give valuable window into past
British Lancia armoured police vehicles outside the wreckage of the Hammond Hotel in O’Connell Street, Dublin during the Irish Civil War in July 1922. Photograph: Brooke/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
The explosion and fire at the public record office at Dublin’s Four Courts during the Irish Civil War wiped out hundreds of years of records going back as far as medieval times, including most of the census records which dated as of 1821.
The responsibility for the incident on the afternoon of June 30th, 1922, has never been established. Some blame the national army which was shelling the anti-Treaty forces who were occupying the Four Courts; others believe the anti-Treaty forces deliberately blew up the records in an act of defiance of the new State.
At the time, The Irish Times had no doubt over where the blame lay and over the implications it would have for future generations. “The explosion has torn whole chapters out of Irish history. The full responsibility lies, of course, with the men who offered a reckless defiance to the authority of the Irish government,” ran a report published a few days after the explosion.
Contrary to the general perception though, not all the census records were lost. Now, for the first time, the records which survived will be made available to the public online.
They contain partial census records from 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 .
From 1841, the last census before the Famine, a section of the Cavan records survived, and from 1851 substantial records from both Antrim and Dublin remain intact.
Another valuable source of information released are the thousands of pension application forms from 1909.
In order to be eligible for the first State pension, you had to prove you were 70 - and that could only be done through the census records. A civil register of births was not introduced until 1864.
In total some 629,000 records of the estimated 12 million that were in the public record office before the explosion are now available to the public to view.
The project was result of a partnership between the National Archives, FindMyPast.ie and FamilySearch.org.
See FindMyPast.ie and census.nationalarchives.ie