About the 1901 and 1911 censuses
The 1901 and 1911 censuses are the only surviving full censuses of Ireland open to the public. Both censuses cover the island of Ireland. They were released to public inspection in 1961, because of the stream of requests for information about people's ages, particularly those born before civil registration of births began in 1864.
The 1901 census was taken on 31st March 1901. The 1911 census was taken on 2 April 1911.
What information does the census contain?
Ireland is unusual among English-speaking census-taking countries in that our original household manuscript returns survive. These are the forms filled out and signed by the head of each household on census night. Most other countries only have Enumerators' books, where family details were transcribed by the person charged with collecting the census information.
The basic topographical divisions for the census are: County; District Electoral Division; Townland or Street. This is a simple hierarchical structure which makes it easy to access any area in the country. The returns are arranged in clusters by townland/street within district electoral division within county. For each townland/street, there are a number of original household returns, filled in and signed by heads of households, and three statistical returns, dealing with religious denominations, classification of buildings, and out-offices and farm-steadings, filled out by the Enumerator for that townland/street.
The various forms you will encounter are as follows:
This is the basic household return, filled in and signed by the head of the household. There is one for each household in the country. The information sought was: name, age, sex, relationship to head of the household, religion, occupation, marital status, county or country of birth.
The census also records an individual's ability to read or write and ability to speak the Irish language, and whether deaf, dumb, blind, idiot, imbecile or lunatic.
The 1911 census asked a significant additional question: married women were required to state the number of years they had been married, the number of their children born alive and the number still living.
The back of the form, also available on this website, gives the head of household and its address. In some cases, where forms were filled out in Irish, the name of the head of household appears in English on the back of the form. This name has also been indexed, and appears on the list of residents of a household. The back of the form is available to view under Form A, page 2.
House and Building Return: this form gives you details of the houses and buildings in a townland/street, including what kind of building (private dwelling, factory, shop etc.), what class of building, how many families lived in each house, how many people lived in how many rooms, and name of head of household. This form is very useful for the examination of urban overcrowding.
Return of Out-Offices and Farm-Steadings: this form tells you what extra buildings are attached to a dwelling, for example, stables, coach houses, cow houses, dairies, piggeries, barns etc. This form gives an idea of the full extent of a person's property.
The Enumerator's abstract: this form gives details of the number of houses in a street or townland, and the number of occupants of each house, broken down by sex. The form also tells you the religious denominations present in each household.
Institutional and shipping forms
These forms contain details of the occupants of institutions of different kinds, for example, barracks, workhouses, hospitals, colleges, orphanages etc. In many cases the names of occupants are only given in initial form, ie Mary Smith is entered as M.S. These names are indexed by initial, and hopefully the information in the form itself (county of birth, occupation, marital status) will help to identify the person sought.
The forms are as follows:
- Form B3: Shipping return.
- Form E: Workhouse return.
- Form F: Hospital return.
- Form G: College and Boarding-School return.
- Form H: Barrack return.
- Form I: Return of Idiots and Lunatics in institutions.
- Form K: Prison return.
- Form C: Return of the sick at their own homes.
- Form D: Return of lunatics and idiots not in institutions.
A number of townlands/streets do not appear in the online census for 1091 and 1911, mostly due to their never having been microfilmed, and thus never digitised. This is being remedied, and the missing material will be placed online as soon as possible. A list of the missing material will shortly appear on this page.
The records for some streets and townlands have never been in the custody of the National Archives, and these will be clealy indicated.