Irish Census Returns: 1821-1911
Population censuses as we understand them today began in Ireland in 1821. Unfortunately, the majority of 19th century Irish census returns were destroyed.
The first surviving population census for Ireland is 1901, and this, together with the 1911 Census of Ireland are available online from the National Archives of Ireland
No population census was taken in Ireland in 1921 due to the civil strife that the country was experiencing and as a consequence the next census was enumerated in 1926. It is hoped that this will be released well before the usual 100-year rule.
At least two complete Irish Census Returns – those for 1881 and 1891 – were pulped under the instructions of the British Government. Those for 1821-71 were held for safe keeping in the old Public Records Office of Ireland in the Four Courts. This building suffered a catastrophic fire in 1922 and as a result the majority of population censuses for Ireland were destroyed, either by accident or on purpose. By chance some of the pre-1871 population censuses survived the Four Courts fire. These have also be published online by the National Archives of Ireland on their genealogy website.
The Archives’ Pre- 1901 Census of Ireland Calendar records that the following returns survived:
1821 Population Census
Cavan: 31 Parishes
Fermanagh: 2 Parishes.
Galway 9 parishes, mostly incomplete.
King’s County: (Offaly) 9 Parishes, Parish of Birr complete.
Meath: 19 Parishes, most of these are incomplete.
1831 Population Census
Londonderry: 49 Parishes.
1841 Population Census
Cavan: Parish of Killeshandra only.
Small fragments from counties Cork & Waterford.
1851 Population Census
Antrim 12 parishes
Dublin City: Heads of Household only.
As a consequence of the destruction of Irish census returns prior to 1901 the Irish genealogist often has to rely on a number of standard census substitutes none of which were intended for such a purpose.
Chief amongst these sources are Griffith’s Valuation of Ireland. Conducted between 1847 and 1864 this records all of the rated occupiers, essentially heads of household, in Ireland. While extremely useful, this valuation does not include occupiers that were not paying rates; numbered amongst these were the numerous city laborers as well as many ‘lodgers’ in rented property throughout the country. This can viewed in its entirety at Findmypast or askaboutireland.ie .
Other Census substitutes for the periods 1821-1891 include Tithe Applotments Books (1823-38), freeholders records, voters lists, abstracts collected by Gertrude Thift and a plethora of other minor records that vary from county to county.