Irish Guide: Census and Substitutes
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Everyone seems to have heard about the Four Courts Fire of 1922, and how "all the records were destroyed." Censuses of the whole island (of Ireland) were taken in 1821, 1831, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1901 and 1911. The first four were largely destroyed in a fire in the Public Records Office (Four Courts) in 1922. Those for 1861 and 1871 were destroyed by Government order. It's true that these were a devastating events, but there are a lot of genealogical resources that can help us in our search for Ancestors. It just requires skills more closely related to a detective than a librarian!

[What was destroyed were many wills (the indexes exist) and about 1/3rd of the Anglican records, in addition to the censuses for 1821, 1831, 1841, and 1851.

The churches were told to send in their records and not a lot obeyed. They are Irish, are they not, so we're not surprised!

Many of the church records are still in local hands. There's a tendency for county heritage organizations to index all the ones in the county and charge you to do searches. Some of them are in PRONI on film. Some Catholic parish records require permission of the Bishop or parish priest -- if you go to Dublin. If you go to Belfast you can just look at them.]

Since the basic rule of genealogy is to begin with yourself and progress back, this list will start with the latest records. Similar lists can be found on many web sites and some records are starting to show up on line as well, but the bulk of the information we need is still located "out there" in books, microfilm, microfiche, or in Ireland's National Library and Public Records Office.

The Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) have filmed records from around the world and stored them in their repository in Salt Lake City. Their generosity in sharing this information with everyone is the reason so many of us have found the courage to dig for our roots. Local Family History Centers, staffed by volunteers, provide access to these films and fiches, merely for the cost of mailing (currently $3.50 per film). Before ordering films from the LDS you should always check the number on their computer system. The Family History Library Catalog entry screen allows you to select "film or fiche number" which makes it a very quick checking process.

Our goal is to list the known sources of information, and match them with the film or fiche number cataloged by the FHC..

This assumes that if you live in the U.S., Canada, Australia, etc., you've already done your "homework" using local records and the memories of living relatives. Immigration and Naturalization records sometimes name a locality (if you're lucky). If you know the name of the parish or townland, within the county of origin, you can go straight to the census or Griffiths' Vaulation (1850s). If not, you'll need to use other finding aids to narrow the search. And even if you can never prove that "these Kellys are mine" you'll get a real sense of the times and the "neighborhoods" to relate to your own family history.

Some general Comments that apply to 1841 - 1891 unless otherwise stated.

Government censuses were taken in 1821, 1831, 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, and then in 1901 and 1911. See them at


As described on the censuses proper page, most of the censuses were lost or destroyed. For this reason, searching in Ireland means becoming familiar with and using many different



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