skip to content

Census Returns (Ireland)

Nature of Source

Records form the population count and social data taken every ten years. The census is essentially a record of all individuals at a particular location on census day, whether a residential dwelling or an institution. The census lists all residents by townland (a subdivision of a parish) in rural areas and by streets in urban areas. Taking a census began in 1821 and thereafter every ten years. The first surviving intact census is for 1901, the others having been largely destroyed.

All the important genealogical information for the 1901 and 1911 census is recorded on 'Form A' but be aware that the address will be found on the reverse of this form. Also refer to 'Form B1, the House and Building Return' which provides a summary description of each property as well as the ownership details.

Due to the popularity of England as a place of migration for Irish people, many English records such as census returns contain relevant information on Irish ancestors. The greatest movement of the Irish out of the country occurred during the devastating Irish potato famine between the years 1845 to 1849.

Most 1821 to1851 census returns were destroyed by the 1922 shelling of the Public Record Office located in the Four Courts building in Dublin, marking the beginning of the civil war. The 1861 to 1891 returns were destroyed by the government during WWI. Check with the National Archives of Ireland and Public Record Office of Northern Ireland for extant returns from the 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 censuses covering some counties. There is also a surviving 1851 head of household census for the cities of Belfast and Dublin. The surviving records are those for the 1901 and 1911 censuses. Some extracts from the 1841 and 1851 census returns are available from Old Age Pension (OAP) claims and applications. The 1911 census is not available in Northern Ireland due to the 100 year closure rules.

Possible census substitutes include:
1766 Religious Census of Ireland
Directories, Trade, Telephone & Street
Encumbered Estates Records
Griffith's Valuation (Primary Valuation of Ireland)
Old Age Pension Searches
Poll Books/Electoral Registers
Return of Owners of Land
Surname Origins and Distribution (Including Scotland and Ireland)
Tithe Applotment Books
William Smith O'Brien Petition

Where Found

National Archives of Ireland (1901 and 1911 census returns for all 32 counties. No manuscript returns survive for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 but there are some returns for 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 covering parts of some counties)
Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) (1901 returns for Northern Ireland on microfilm)
LDS FamilySearch Centers (Copies of the 1901 census returns)

Period Covered

1821 - 1911

Genealogical Value

For each household inhabitant: Name and address of resident, street level for urban dwellers and townland for rural dwellers. Family relationships and relationship to the head of household. Religion, occupation, age, sex and place of birth (1901 and 1911 only) of each resident. For married women: number of years married, number of children born and still living (1911 only). Number of storeys of the house and land held.

Further References

Census Specific  
Chapman, Colin. Pre-1841 Censuses & Population Listings in the British Isles: Lochin Publishing, 2002 (Preview available from Google Books) Buy Now on Amazon
Jolly, Emma. Tracing Your Ancestors Using the Census: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen & Sword Books, 2013
Masterson, Josephine. Ireland 1841/1851 Census Abstracts (Republic of Ireland): Genealogical Publishing Company, 2010 Buy Now on Amazon
Masterson, Josephine. Ireland 1841-1851 Census Abstracts (Northern Ireland): Genealogical Publishing Company, 2010 Buy Now on Amazon
Masterson, Josephine. County Antrim, Ireland, 1851 Census (Fragments), Transcription and Index: Clearfield, 2009 Buy Now on Amazon
Family History Guides  

Adolph, Anthony. Collins Tracing Your Irish Family History: HarperCollins, 2007

Buy Now on Amazon

Begley, Donal. Handbook on Irish Genealogy: How to Trace Your Ancestors and Relatives: Heraldic Artists, 1984

Buy Now on Amazon
Caball, Kay. Finding your Ancestors in Kerry: Flyleaf Press, 2015 Buy Now on Amazon
Connell, Gretta. Tracing Your Westmeath Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 2012 Buy Now on Amazon
Corrigan, Mario &  Durney, James & Kiely, Karel. Tracing your Kildare Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 2014 Buy Now on Amazon

Davis, Bill. Irish Ancestry - A Beginner's Guide: FFHS, 2001

Buy Now on Amazon

Falley, Margaret Dickson. Irish and Scottish-Irish Ancestral Research: GPC, 1981 (1962)

Buy Now on Amazon
Franklin, Margaret. Tracing your Limerick Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 2011 Buy Now on Amazon

Grenham, John. Irish Ancestors, A Pocket Guide to Your Family History: Gill & Macmillan, 2004

Buy Now on Amazon

Grenham, John. Tracing Your Irish Ancestors: Gill & Macmillan, 2011

Buy Now on Amazon
Hamrock, John. Tracing your Roscommon Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 2007 Buy Now on Amazon

Kinealy, Christine. Tracing Your Irish Roots: Appletree Press, 2009

Buy Now on Amazon

McCarthy, Tony. The Irish Roots Guide. Dublin: The Lilliput Press, 1991

Buy Now on Amazon
McCarthy, Tony & Cadogan, Tim. Tracing Your Cork Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 2011 Buy Now on Amazon

Maxwell, Ian. Tracing Your Ancestors in Northern Ireland: A Guide to Ancestry Research in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland: Stationery Office, 1997

Buy Now on Amazon
Maxwell, Ian. Researching Armagh Ancestors: A Practical Guide for the Family and Local Historian: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2000 Buy Now on Amazon
Maxwell, Ian. Researching Down Ancestors: A Practical Guide for the Family and Local Historian: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2000 Buy Now on Amazon

Maxwell, Ian. How To Trace Your Irish Ancestors: How To Books, 2009

Buy Now on Amazon

Maxwell, Ian. Your Irish Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword, 2008

Maxwell, Ian. Tracing Your Northern Irish Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword, 2010

Buy Now on Amazon
Meehan, Helen & Duffy, Godfrey. Tracing Your Donegal Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 2008 Buy Now on Amazon
Mitchell, Brian. A New Genealogical Atlas of Ireland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 2009 Buy Now on Amazon
Mitchell, Brian. Basic Guide to Irish Records for Family History: Clearfield Company, 2009 Buy Now on Amazon
Mitchell, Brian. Tracing Derry-Londonderry Roots: Clearfield Company, 2014 Buy Now on Amazon
O'Connor, Michael H. Tracing your Kerry Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 1994 Buy Now on Amazon
O'Dowd, Peadar. Tracing your Galway Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 2010 Buy Now on Amazon

Ouimette, David. Finding Your Irish Ancestors: A Beginner's Guide: Ancestry.com, 2005

Buy Now on Amazon
Paton, Chris. Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet: A Guide For Family Historians: Pen & Sword Books, 2013
Paton, Chris. Discover Irish Land Records: Unlock the Past, 2015  

Prochaska, Alice, Irish History from 1700: A Guide to Sources in the Public Record Office: British Records Association, 1986

Buy Now on Amazon

Raymond, Stuart. Irish Family History on the Web: The Family History Partnership, 2007

Buy Now on Amazon

Roulston, William. Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors: The Essential Genealogical Guide to Early Modern Ulster, 1600-1800: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2005

Buy Now on Amazon

Ryan, James. Irish Records: Sources for Family & Local History: Flyleaf Press, 1997

Buy Now on Amazon
Ryan, James & Smith, Brian. Tracing Your Dublin Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 2009 Buy Now on Amazon
Ryan, James. Tracing your Sligo Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 2012 Buy Now on Amazon
Scott, Jonathan. Tracing Your British and Irish Ancestors: A Guide for Family Historians: Pen and Sword Books, 2016
Smith, Brian. Tracing your Mayo Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 2010 Buy Now on Amazon
Smith, Brian & Kennedy, Gerry. Tracing Your Clare Ancestors: Flyleaf Press, 2013 Buy Now on Amazon

Stewart, Alan. My Ancestor Was Irish: A Guide to Sources for Family Historians: Society of Genealogists, 2012

Buy Now on Amazon
Other  
Bradshaw's Railway Map Great Britain and Ireland 1852: Mapseeker Publishing, 2013 Buy Now on Amazon
Connolly, S.J. The Oxford Companion to Irish History: Oxford University Press, 2007 Buy Now on Amazon
Coogan, Tim, Pat. The Famine Plot: England's Role in Ireland's Greatest Tragedy: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013 Buy Now on Amazon
Dickson, R.J. Ulster Emigration to Colonial America, 1718-1775: Ulster Historical Foundation, 1976 Buy Now on Amazon
Grenham, John. The Little Book of Irish Clans and Tartans: Book Sales, 1995 Buy Now on Amazon
Robinson, Philip. Plantation of Ulster: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2000 Buy Now on Amazon
Smith, Paul & Turner, Keith. Railway Atlas of Ireland Then & Now: Ian Allan Publishing, 2014 Buy Now on Amazon

Websites

www.irish-genealogy-toolkit.com/free-census-records.html (Irish Genealogy Toolkit: Census returns)
www.from-ireland.net/genealogy/Census-Returns#display (From Ireland: Census Returns)
www.census.nationalarchives.ie/about/index.html (About the census, Digitization of Irish 1901 and 1911 census records)
www.proni.gov.uk/your_family_tree_series_-_05_-_census_records__19th_century_.pdf (Your Family Tree Series 5: Census Records: Nineteenth Century)
www.nationalarchives.ie/genealogy1/genealogy-records/census-returns (National Archives of Ireland Genealogy records: Census returns)
www.proni.gov.uk/index/family_history/family_history_key_sources.htm (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland Family history: Key Sources, 1901 Census)
www.census.nationalarchives.ie (The National Archives of Ireland: Census of Ireland 1901/1911)
www.cyndislist.com/census-uk.htm (Links to online census records)
www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/browse/records/census (Explanations and whereabouts of census returns)
www.censusfinder.com/ireland.htm (Links to online census records and other population lists)
www.censustools.com (CensusTools-downloadable spreadsheets for recording census information)
www.ancestrysolutions.com/referencecentre/refcharts/Census%20Ireland%20QR.html (Ancestry Solutions: Census Quick Reference Chart, including census substitutes)
www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/browse/records/census/seven.htm#hearth (Seventeenth Century Census Substitutes)
www.movinghere.org.uk/galleries/roots/irish/irishrecords/censussubstitutes.htm (Moving Here: Census Substitutes and Fragments)
www.proni.gov.uk/14_-_your_family_tree_series_-_seventeenth_century_census_substitutes.pdf (Seventeenth Century Census Substitutes)
www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~irlgal/index3.htm (Eighteenth & Nineteenth Century Census Substitutes by Patrick Hogan)
www.libraryireland.com (Library Ireland: Digitalised articles, 1861 Census: Decline in the Population of Ireland, from Thom's Almanac and Official Directory, 1862; Census of Ireland 1821, 1831, and 1841 compared, from The Dublin University Magazine, Volume 23, Number 137, May, 1844. The site offers free online access to a broad range of Irish related material including articles, digitised reference books and searchable databases covering Irish history, genealogy, and culture)
www.ancestryireland.com/database.php?filename=townlands (Townlands of Ulster, list of the townlands in Ulster per county)
www.groni.gov.uk/index/family-history.htm (Family History & Research)
www.iar.ie (Irish Archives Resource: The site contains information about archival collections open for public research in Ireland from many organisations, societies, political organisations and businesses)
www.rascal.ac.uk
(Research and Special Collections Available Locally. An electronic gateway to research resources in Ireland. You can use this web-site to search and browse information about the wide range of research and special collections held in libraries, museums and archives across the region)
https://familysearch.org/learningcenter/lesson/getting-started-in-irish-genealogy/594 (FamilySearch.org: Learning Center Online Genealogy Course: Getting Started in Irish Genealogy. Lecture designed to acquaint beginning genealogist with strategies and sources for getting started in Irish genealogy)
www.irishtimestraining.com (Online Tracing your Irish Ancestors Course designed and presented by the genealogist John Grenham. The 11 modules will give you the tools and techniques to comprehensively trace your Irish family history. The online tutorials will provide you with a wide-ranging guide to all the records, resources and research techniques you will need)
www.irishtimestraining.com (Online Tracing your Irish Ancestors Course designed and presented by the genealogist John Grenham. The 11 modules will give you the tools and techniques to comprehensively trace your Irish family history. The online tutorials will provide you with a wide-ranging guide to all the records, resources and research techniques you will need)
www.irishgenealogy.ie/en/irish-records-what-is-available/church-records (Irish Genealogy: Research in Ireland: Irish Records: What Is Available?)
www.irishgenealogy.ie/en/irish-genealogical-research-getting-started/how-to-start-your-family-history (Irish Genealogy: How To Start Your Family History)
www.irelandgenweb.com (Information on Irish counties)
www.rootsweb.com/~nirwgw (Information on Northern Irish counties)
www.rootsweb.com/~fianna (Fianna Guide to Irish Genealogy)
www.genealogylinks.net/uk/index.html (Links to online genealogy records & useful information)
www.irishancestors.ie/?page_id=5392 (Irish Genealogical Research Society: Index of Townlands, 1901: Searchable database of over 64,000 townlands in Ireland which are ancient land divisions measuring from just a few acres to several hundred and still in use today)
www.thecore.com/seanruad (The IreAtlas Townland data base)
www.irishtimes.com/ancestor/placenames (1851 General Alphabetical Index to the Townlands and Towns, parishes and Baronies of Ireland)
www.genealogybranches.com/irishcensus.html (Links to online Irish census indexes and records)
www.histpop.org (Official reports, legislation and essays on the censuses including statistical analysis. The documents on the site include indexes to parishes, townships and places used in the official reports)
www.irishlivesremembered.ie (Irish Lives Remembered Genealogy Magazine. The online magazine is dedicated to tracing your Irish ancestors globally with over 70 pages of Irish genealogy news and resources. Read online or download in PDF format)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Ireland Census Reports. Learn about the community in which your ancestor lived with census reports detailing population and area statistics from the latter half of the 19th century up to the early 20th century)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Ireland Statistical Surveys. Learn about the history, customs, politics, and industries of various Irish counties. The collection is comprised of PDF images of the surveys from the following counties: Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, King's Offaly, Leitrim, Mayo, Meath, Roscommon, and Tyrone)

Online Databases

www.genealogy.nationalarchives.ie (National Archives Genealogy Website: 1901 and 1911 census of Ireland providing free access to transcripts and original images)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Ireland Census 1901 & 1911. Each record contains a transcript of the household census return with a link to the image of the original held by the National Archives of Ireland)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Ireland census 1821-1851. Discover your ancestor in the remains of Ireland’s early nineteenth century censuses that survived the fire at the Four Courts in 1922. The records cover large parts of County Cavan, Fermanagh, Galway, Offaly [King’s], and Meath in 1821, Derry/Londonderry in 1831, Cavan in 1841, and Antrim in 1851, and contain the details of over 600,000 people. Produced in partnership with the National Archives of Ireland)
www.findmypast.ie (Findmypast Ireland a partnership between Eneclann and findmypast: The 1851 Dublin City Census; The Census of Elphin 1749; Dublin City Census 1901: Rotunda Ward)
www.ancestry.co.uk (Census, 1901 & 1911; 1766 Religious Census; 1841/1851 Census Abstracts [Republic of Ireland] County Cork collection of 1851 Census Records)
www.findmypast.co.uk (Irish Army Census 1922. The Census is comprised of ten volumes containing over 32,000 records held by the Military Archives of Ireland. The census lists the names of all those serving with the army at midnight on 12/13 November 1922)
www.irishgenealogy.ie
(Irish Genealogy: Online search facility allowing users to search across a number of databases from different suppliers covering the following sources: 1901 and 1911 census returns; Griffiths Valuations; Tithe Applotment Records; Soldiers Wills; Military Archives; Ellis Island Records; Castle Garden Records; Ireland-Australia Transportation Database)
Emerald Ancestors (Northern Irish Ancestry and Ulster genealogy records: 1901 Fermanagh Census and Northern Ireland census index taken from abstracts held within Old Age Pension records made during the early 1900's)
Ulster Ancestry Free Genealogy Pages (Transcriptions of sources specific to Ulster genealogy including various census transcripts. Ulster Ancestry also offers a specialist ancestral research service for those wishing to trace their family origins in Northern Ireland)
www.genealogy.com (Abstracts available online as data sets included in the International and Passenger Records Collection)
www.genealogy.nationalarchives.ie
(National Archives Genealogy Website: Searchable databases and linked images of census records for 1901 and 1911)
http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~jeanmccarthy36 (Jean McCarthy's Genealogy Web Site, census transcriptions including 1851 Liverpool Census Index Irish born)
www.irelandgenweb.com (IrelandGenWeb Project. Some transcribed records)
www.rootsweb.com/~nirwgw (Northern IrelandGenWeb Project. Some transcribed records)
www.rootsireland.ie (Irish Family History Foundation: Online Genealogy Databases for Ireland including census returns. See web site for material available for each county which can include births/baptisms, marriages and deaths, Griffiths valuation and census returns)
www.ancestryireland.com (Ulster Historical Foundation: Local census returns) 
www.northernirelandgenweb.org/derry/1831dunboe_census/index.html (Northern IrelandGenWeb: 1831 Census index of Heads of Household-Dunboe Parish, Co. Londonderry)
www.leitrim-roscommon.com/1901census (1901 census transcriptions for Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo & Sligo with other counties in preparation)
www.militaryarchives.ie
(Irish Army Census Collection 1922. Information on any person serving in the National Army in November 1922)
www.ancestry.co.uk/search/db.aspx?dbid=4077 (Irish Records Index, 1500-1920)
www.findmypast.co.uk (1798 Claimants and Surrenders)

CD Roms

www.archivecdbooks.ie (Archive CD Books: County Antrim Census Reports 1851-1911; The 1851 Dublin City Census)
Genealogical Publishing Company (Irish Source Records: 1841/1851 Census Abstracts for Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and 1851 County Cork census records)