Millions of files offer
Irish Times, 4th June 2010
1901 CENSUS GOES ONLINE: THE
EARLIEST surviving complete Census of Ireland has been put online, giving
access to more than 4.5 million records from 1901 for historians,
genealogists and anyone curious about their family history.
Some 850,000 households on
the entire island were covered in the census, which was taken on the night
of Sunday, March 31st, 1901.
Minister for Culture Mary
Hanafin described the service as “an important and exciting day for people
all over the world who want to trace their roots”.
She added: “In a world
which is very troubled, people want to know where they are rooted and are
anxious to know about their background and their heritage.”
The latest records to go
online are expected to rival the popularity of the 1911 Census records,
which were went up on the web between 2007 and 2009 and have since attracted
more than 260 million hits and seven million individual users, in spite of
the fact that it has not been launched formally in the US.
There are no further
complete sets of records to make available, as most of the census records
from the 19th century have been destroyed.
Those from the early part
of the century were lost in a fire at the Public Records Office during the
Civil War in 1922, while some later records were pulped because of a paper
shortage during first World War.
The 1901 Census provide
information about a household on a single sheet, covering the following
categories: first name; surname; relation to head of family; religious
profession; education; age; sex; occupation; marriage status; where born; if
the individual spoke English, Irish or both and if the person had a
Digitisation of the records
has cost almost €4 million and the work has been carried out by the
National Archives in partnership with Library and Archives Canada over the
past five years.
Ms Hanafin said the project
brought history “a bit closer to us all” in searching for our ancestors.
The 1901 census shows her
own great-great-grandparents, Patrick and Jane Hanafin, were clothes dealers
living with their children and grandchild in Longford.
“That’s where my
interest in clothes came from,” the Minister said. Ms Hanafin undertook to
do everything possible in the coming months to enhance the storage
facilities available to the National Archives.
The archives’ director of
special projects Caitriona Crowe said most of the interest in census records
was coming from Ireland and Britain, with the US growing steadily. Despite
the absence of further complete census records, other documents would
shortly be made available online and free, starting with the Applotment
Books from the 1820s.
History at a
click - famous names revealed
ANYONE WHO has tried to
trace their family history using the 1911 Census, which has been online for
several years, will have no problem extracting information from the 1901
Census that is now available.
census.nationalarchives.ie also provides contextual material consisting of
historical commentary, photographs and digitised documents from the period,
as well as links to relevant scholarly and genealogical sites.
The information in the
census is fully searchable by category, so even a small tidbit of historical
information can open up access to the full records.
Being vague about matters
genealogical, I know only that my late father’s forbears came from Delgany
in Co Wicklow. But an instant search for “Cullen” and “Delgany”
reveals a house of eight Cullens in “farm 11.1”, and two of them are
listed as painters, which was my father’s occupation. Mary Cullen, who was
three at the time of the Census in 1901, is probably the same “Aunt
Mary” I remember meeting as a child when she was in a retirement home in
Far more interestingly, the
census lists one James Joyce, then a 19-year-old student living with his
family in Fairview.
Then there’s Peig Sayers,
returned under her married name of Margaret Guiheen, living with her husband
Patrick and in-laws on the Great Blasket Island.
Compared with the 1911
Census, when the Gaelic revivial was in full bloom, English is in greater
evidence in the earlier records.
Even the 22-year-old Pádraig
Pearse (inset) makes his entry as head of household in English in the 1901
Census, while 10 years later he fills the form out in Irish.
Meanwhile, Edward (Eamon)
de Valera is listed as an 18-year-old boarder in Blackrock College.
Having accessed the basic
information they have sought from the census records, users can then have
the entire information on the return displayed at the click of a mouse. A
further click brings up a pdf of the original census record.
The returns for both
censuses also give details of houses, recording the number of windows, type
of roof and number of rooms occupied by each family. Each house is
classified according to its overall condition. The number of out-offices and
farm buildings attached to each household is also given.
In addition to returns for
every household in the country, both censuses contain returns for police and
military barracks, public and private asylums, prisons, hospitals,
workhouses, colleges, boarding schools and industrial schools among other
Access to all information
The census website is
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