Ireland Ancestry Records – The Major Sources of Ireland Ancestry Records

The important Ireland ancestry records known as census returns came into existence in 1821, and were taken subsequently every ten years. Many of the original manuscripts have been destroyed, but some exist for various counties and years which we’ll reveal later. First though we’ll take a look at what information can be found in these Ireland ancestry records, where you can find them, and how you can access them. As an example, we’ll review the 1901 and 1911 census returns and their value as Ireland ancestry records.

Ireland Ancestry Records – The Value of Census Returns

Census Returns are among the most yielding of Ireland ancestry records. A census of the Irish population was taken every ten years beginning in 1821 until 1911. Fortunately some of these valuable Ireland ancestry records survived the turbulence of Ireland’s internal struggles, and the original Census Returns exist for all 32 counties of Ireland for the years 1901 and 1911. The census reports are arranged by county, townland or, in urban areas, by street. The returns for each townland or street in the 1901 and 1911 returns contain:

  • Forms (Form A) filled out by the head of each household stating the names of all occupants in that house on the night of the census. It also records their ages, occupations, religion, and place of birth.
  • Forms (Forms N, B1 and B2) filled out by the census taker summarising the returns for that townland or street, or any of their personal observations.

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The 1901 and 1911 Census Reports are now available to search online, completely for free and across fields which were filled in on the original forms. The 1901 census contained 13 fields on entry, while 1911 has fifteen. You may search these Ireland ancestry records by religion, occupation, relationship to head of family, literacy status, place of birth, or even by a specified illness at the site of the Irish National Archives. The National Archives website also provides background information on evictions, industry, literature, sport, transportation, and has an illustrated account of Ireland in 1911.

The information that can be found in these more recent Ireland ancestry records can be of immense help to genealogists seeking relatives from those eras. If your ancestor was born during an earlier period, it may be a bit more difficult to locate them in Census Returns. There are absolutely no surviving reports for 1861, 1871, 1881, or 1891. All of them were completely destroyed by fire during the Civil War in 1922. There are some surviving reports for 1821, 1831, 1841, and 1851. They are as follows:

  • Antrim 1851
  • Cavan 1821, 1841
  • Cork 1841
  • Fermanagh 1821, 1841, 1851
  • Galway 1821
  • Offaly 1821
  • Londonderry (Derry) 1831
  • Meath 1821
  • Waterford 1841

There are also supplemental lists of heads of households taken from the 1851 census for part of Belfast and most of Dublin city, which may at least help you to find one of your ancestors. Other supplemental material which may help you while researching these Ireland ancestry records are the Census Search Forms which give details of searches made in the returns of 1841 and 1851 for all thirty two counties. The result of the search is noted along with the name of the applicant who requested the search. These searches were often executed to locate monies due from Old Age Pensions, and are kept on microfilm in the Public Record Office in Belfast.

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The census reports that have survived the mayhem of Ireland’s internal conflicts are the most important Ireland ancestry records for genealogists. The wealth of information they contain can help you to find out a lot about your ancestor if you find him or her. It is sad that searching ancestors has to be made harder because of human recklessness, but as such the reward of finding your relative in these Ireland ancestry records is made sweeter. Make sure to read our other articles about Ireland ancestry records for information on how to find your relatives using Tithe Applotments, Valuations, and Parish Registers.

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