Irish Census records



Eighteenth & Nineteenth Century Census Substitutes


The Convert Rolls
Protestant Householders
Elphin Diocesan Census
The Religious Survey of 1766
Dissenters' petitions, 1775
Official Papers & petitions
Charleton Trust Fund
Spinning Wheel Premium Lists
Persons who suffered losses in 1798
1803 Agricultural census
Tithe Applotment Books
Reproductive Loan Fund Records
National School Records
Workhouse records
Griffiths Valuation
Landowners in Ireland
Lists of Freeholders
Voters Lists and Poll Books
Electoral Records

1703-1838: The Convert Rolls

To avoid the drastic restrictions on civil and property rights imposed on non-members of the Church of Ireland, people with most to lose - mainly the middle classes and Catholic aristocracy - frequently chose to convert. Two volumes in NAI (1789 to 1838 and 1800 to 1838) list the individuals, with the dates and places of their conversion, and are now free to search at genealogy.nationalarchives.ie and FindMyPast.ie. They have been published in The Convert Rolls (ed. Eileen O'Byrne, IMC, 1981, 308 p. NLI Ir. 2741 c 25). After the restrictions began to ease in the late 1770s, a formal oath of allegiance to the British monarch was required, rather than full conversion. The lists of those taking the oath, the 'Catholic Qualification Rolls' are also at genealogy.nationalarchives.ie and FindMyPast.ie.


1740: Protestant householders

For parts of Cos Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Donegal and Tyrone. Arranged by barony and parish, the lists give names only. Parts are at PRONI, The GO, NLI and the RCBL. They are included in the 'Name search' at PRONI's website. Details will be found under the relevant county.

1749: Elphin Diocesan Census

Arranged by townland and parish, and listing householders, their religion, the numbers, sex and religion of their children, and the numbers, sex and religion of their servants. Elphin diocese includes parts of Cos. Galway, Roscommon and Sligo. Online at FindMyPast.ie. Details of the parishes covered will be found under the relevant county.

1766: Religious Survey

In March and April 1766, on the instructions of the government, Church of Ireland rectors were asked to compile complete returns of all householders in their parishes, showing their religion, and giving an account of any Catholic clergy active in their area. The result was extraordinarily inconsistent, with some rectors producing only numerical totals of population and some drawing up partial lists. The most conscientious detailed all householders and their addresses individually. All of the original returns were lost in 1922, but extensive transcripts survive for some areas and are deposited with various institutions. The only full listing of all surviving transcripts and abstracts is in NAI and is downloadable from its website's 'Genealogy records'/'Census returns' guide. However, this does not differentiate between those returns that supply names and those that merely give numerical totals. The details given under the relevant county refer only to those parishes for which names are given and include the large number transcribed in PRONI's online 'Name search'. See also Catholics and Protestants in eighteenth-century Ireland: Irish religious censuses of the 1760s (Brian Gurrin, Kerby A. Miller and Liam Kennedy, editors, IMC, 2016).

1775: Dissenters' petitions

A series of petitions to the Irish Parliament protesting at an Act of 1774 excluding dissenters from voting at vestry meetings of the Church of Ireland. The originals were destroyed in 1922, but a series of transcripts had been made by Tenison Groves, which are now in PRONI and are searchable via their online 'Name search'.

1790-1880: Official Papers, petitions

The Official Papers form part of the incoming correspondence records of the Office of the Chief Secretary to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, usually known simply as the Chief Secretary's Office, the main organ of central administration in Ireland for the period. Two main series exist in NAI, 1790-1831 and 1832-1880, the former calendared and classified by year and subject, the latter covered by card indexes. A detailed catalogue from 1818 to 1833 (and intended to come up to 1852) is at www.csorp.nationalarchives.ie.

As well as records of the administration of justice (see Convicts), they also include a long series of petitions to the Lord Lieutenant from around the country, generally described as 'memorials', which very often append long lists of names or signatures. The mother of all memorials is the William Smith O'Brien petition from 1848/9, a plea for clemency for the main instigator of an abortive rising in 1848, the so-called 'battle of Widow McCormack's cabbage patch'. It includes almost 90,000 names from all over Ireland as well as from the Irish in England. Ruth Lawler's transcription has been published on CD-ROM by Eneclann (# CD2) and is searchable online at FindMyPast.ie.

Many smaller petitions also exist, ranging from pleas for relief from distress among weavers to an appeal for a road from Kanturk to Cork city. The largest numbers relate to changes made in the arrangements for local court sittings (Quarter Sessions) in 1837-38. Bids to host the courts poured in from all over the country - the economic spin-offs must have been considerable. At least forty of these smaller petitions have been identified, and are listed under the relevant county, with estimates of the number of names they contain. No doubt there are many more.

1795-1862: Charleton Trust Fund Marriage certificates.

Charleton Fund certificate [Click for larger image]


The Charlton Trust Fund offered a small marriage gratuity to members of the Protestant labouring classes. To qualify, a marriage certificate, recording occupations and fathers names and signed by the local Church of Ireland clergyman, had to be submitted, and these are now in the National Archives. They are particularly useful for the years before the start of registration of marriages other than those in Catholic Churches in 1845. The areas covered by the Fund were mainly in Counties Meath and Longford, but a few certificates exist for parts of Counties Cavan, King's (Offaly), Louth, and Westmeath, as well as Dublin city. They are indexed in National Archives Accessions Vol. 37. A later series (1896-1908) is at NAI 2/464/40.

1796: Spinning Wheel Premium Entitlement Lists

As part of a government scheme to encourage the linen trade, free spinning wheels or looms were granted to individuals planting a certain area of land with flax.

The lists of those entitled to the awards, covering almost 60,000 individuals, were published in 1796, and record only the names of the individuals and the civil parish in which they lived. The majority, were in Ulster, but some names appear from every county except Dublin and Wicklow. A microfiche index to the lists is available in the National Archives, and The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and online at www.failteromhat.com.

1798: Persons who Suffered Losses in the 1798 Rebellion

This comprises a list of claims for compensation from the government for property destroyed by the rebels during the insurrection of 1798 and is particularly useful for the property-owning classes of Cos Wexford, Carlow, Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow. Where significant numbers are recorded, these are supplied in the county source lists. NLI I 94107. Online at FindMyPast.ie.

1803: Agricultural censuses of Cos. Antrim and Down

As part of the preparations for a possible French invasion in the aftermath of the abortive rebellion of 1803, plans were drawn up for the evacuation of coastal areas. A survey of livestock, crops, wagons and horses was ordered, but it appears to have been carried out only in Cos. Antrim and Down. In most cases, occupiers' names are also recorded. Eleven parishes in Antrim are covered in NAI Official Papers (op 153/103/1-16), with a copy in PRONI, and online at www.billmacafee.com. For Down the survey survived as part of the papers of the 1st Marquess of Londonderry and is available in PRONI. Fifty Down parishes are covered, with returns for thirty, including at least some occupiers' names. Ian Maxwell's Researching Down Ancestors (UHF, 2004) provides a parish-by-parish description.

1822-1854: Reproductive Loan Fund records

In the mid-nineteenth century, when the practice was at its peak, hundreds of local loan funds took deposits and made loans to the poorest classes in Ireland. One estimate puts the number of loans at 500,000 a year in the early 1840s, covering nearly a fifth of the households in the country. The system originated in 1822, when a severe but localised famine drew a great deal of attention in England and a committee based in London 'for the relief of the distressed Irish' collected over £300,000. More than £55,000 of this remained after the famine abated, and the committee decided to establish a Reproductive Loan Fund to make small loans to the 'industrious poor' of the ten most needy counties. The Fund was reproductive in the sense that the loan would, in theory at least, finance an asset from which an income could be derived to pay the instalments. Legislation was passed in 1823, and again in 1836 and 1838 to encourage such funds, and to create a regulatory body, the Loan Fund Board. By 1843 some three hundred local funds were registered with it, over and above the fifty to a hundred funds created by the Reproductive Institution, which were exempt and administered from London. In 1843, at the prompting of the commercial banks, more legislation was passed to sharply reducing the interest rates the funds could charge. The effect was an immediate rise in the number of funds closing and a sharp drop in the number of loans. The Great Famine took hold in 1845, magnifying further the destructive effects of the change. A large number of funds failed and closed.

Records of the Loan Funds: Virtually no detailed records survive from the institutions administered by the Loan Fund Board - the only exceptions currently known are the Tanderagee Estate Fund, preserved in PRONI as part of the more general Tanderagee estate records, D1248/LF/3, the Shirley Estate Loan Book, in Carrickmacross Library in Co. Monaghan, the 1846-48 Athlone Loan Fund ledger in NAI (BR. WM. 18) and the Account book of the Culdaff Loan Society for 1860 (NLI Ms 23,063). However, the records produced by the original Reproductive Institution itself have survived almost entire. After lending ceased at the end of 1848, all of the records were eventually returned to its headquarters in London, and are now in the NA (Kew), series T/91. As well as the notes of security for the loans, there are loan ledgers, repayment books and defaulters' books for the local associations and the county committees. The minimum information supplied is the name and address, but much additional detail is often given in the local association records, including notes on health, occupation, family circumstances and emigration. The local records generally run from the late 1830s to the mid-1840s and are available for the following associations:

  • Clare: County Account Book and Minutes
  • Cork: Baltimore, Castletown, Castle Townsend, Cloyne, Creagh,
  • Kilmoe and Crookhaven, Schull
  • Galway: Ahascragh, Ballygar, Castle Hackett, Clifden, Kilconickny, Outerard,
  • Galway Town
  • Limerick: A single association covered the entire county.
  • Mayo: Ballina or Carramore, Ballindine, Ballinrobe, Castlebar, Claremorris, Kilmore,
  • Swineford
  • Roscommon: Aughnasurn, Ballinlough, Ballymoe, Clonfinlough, Elphin, Mosshill,
  • Rockville, Tybohan
  • Sligo: Templehouse
  • Tipperary: Tipperary Town
The full collection is now on FindMyPast.ie, as 'Poverty Reilef Loans 1821-1874' and on Ancestry.co.uk as 'Ireland, Sustainability Loan Fund, 1812-1868'.

Some of the most interesting records are the 'Returns to the Clerk of the Peace' of each county, created as part of the process of winding up the Funds. For each local Fund, these generally consist of two parts:
1. an overall account, usually dated 1846-8, showing the names and addresses of the borrower and of his or her two sureties or guarantors, along with amounts outstanding; and
2. a more detailed townland-by-townland listing, organised by constabulary sub-district and carried out by the local RIC in 1853-54, recording details of deaths, economic circumstances and emigration.

No Return to the Clerk of the Peace appears to survive for Co. Clare. In counties Cork, Galway, Limerick, Mayo Roscommon and Tipperary, almost 40,000 names are indexed. For the areas they cover the records are superb, providing in many cases a before-and-after survey of the effect of the Famine on a particular locality. To take one example: Philip Ebzery of the townland of Doonscardeen in the parish of Robertstown in Limerick is recorded in the overall account (T/91/180/0060) as having borrowed four pounds from the Limerick Fund on 23 Nov. 1846, with the entire amount still outstanding as of 1848. His sureties were John Ebzery and Michael Ryan, both also of Doonscardeen. In the 1853 constabulary account (T/91/180/0448), he is recorded as having lived in Doonscardeen in 1846, 'a farmer, was poor, died about 4 years ago, family all emigrated'. And the two sureties are also there: John Ebzery 'was a farmer, went to Australia about four years since with his mother and sisters' and Michael Ryan was 'a poor labourer, supporting his mother and sisters, emigrated to America with his family in 1847'.

1853-4 Constabulary Return for Tourmore townland, Kilmoe civil parish, West Cork

1831-1921: National School Records

1831, a countrywide system of non-denominational primary education was established under the control of the Board of Commissioners for National Education. The most useful records produced under this system are the school registers themselves, which record the age of the pupil, their religion, their father's address and occupation, and general observations. As denominational schools became the norm over the course of the nineteenth century, the number of Board-supported schools dwindled. In the Republic very little effort has been made to centralise the records. Most remain in the custody of local schools or churches. NAI has c. 145 registers, mostly dating from the 1870s and 1880s. Transcripts and images from the LDS microfilm of these are online at FindMyPast.ie. PRONI has a collection of over 1500 registers for schools in the six counties of Northern Ireland. The administrative records of the Board of Commissioners itself are now held by NAI in Dublin. These include teachers' salary books, which can be very useful if an ancestor was a teacher. See also Occupational Records.

Workhouse records

The 130 Poor Law Unions established in 1838, rising to 163 by 1852, had responsibility for administering what little public relief there was and dealt with huge numbers during the Great Famine. Unfortunately, most of the records of interest to family historians, in particular the workhouse admissions registers, do not appear to have survived, and what does exist is scattered and somewhat piecemeal. No comprehensive guide exists. The closest is Records of the Irish Famine: a guide to local archives, 1840-1855 by Deirdre Lindsay and David Fitzpatrick (Dublin: Irish Famine Network, 1993). See also The Workhouses of Ireland by John O'Connor (Dublin: Anvil Books, 1995). The best single collection is held by PRONI, covering the 27 Poor Law Unions that were established in the counties of Northern Ireland. Any surviving admission and discharge registers are listed under the relevant county. An excellent guide to the history of workhouses throughout the British Isles is at www.workhouses.org.uk.

Admission and discharge registers for eight Poor Law Unions in Donegal, Sligo Union and the Unions of Dublin North and South and Rathdown are online on FindMyPast.ie.

1876: Landowners in Ireland

Return of owners of land of one acre and upwards , London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office, 1876. [Reissued by The Genealogical Publishing Company, Baltimore, 1988].

This records 32,614 owners of land in Ireland in 1876, identifying them by province and county; the entries record the address of the owner, along with the extent and valuation of the property. Only a minority of the population actually owned the land they occupied, but the work is invaluable for those who did. Online at failteromhat.com.

Various Dates: Freeholders

Freehold property is held either by fee simple, (where one has absolute freedom to dispose of it), or by fee tail, (where the disposition is restricted to a particular line of heirs or by a life tenure). From the early eighteenth century freeholders' lists were drawn up regularly, usually in connection with the right to vote, which went with freehold of property over a certain value. It follows that such lists are of genealogical interest only for a minority of the population. PRONI's website has a superb collection of lists for Cos. Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Derry/Londonderry, Donegal, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone. Details of these and other surviving lists will be found in the county source lists.

Voters Lists and Poll Books

Voters lists cover a slightly larger proportion of the population than freeholders' lists, because freehold property was not the only determinant of the franchise. In particular, freemen of the various corporation towns and cities had a right to vote in some elections at least. As membership of a trade guild carried with it admission as a freeman, and as this right was hereditary, a wider range of social classes is covered. Details of surviving lists will be found in the county source lists. Poll books are the records of votes actually cast in elections.

Electoral Records

No complete collection of the electoral lists used in the elections of this century exists. This is unfortunate, since they can be of great value in tracing living relatives, listing as they do all eligible voters by townland and household. The largest single collection of surviving electoral registers is to be found in NAI, but even here the coverage of many areas is quite skimpy. The single best collection for the twentieth century is in Dublin City Library and Archive, which has a full database transcript of Dublin city for the years 1937-1964 searchable in its reading room. On its website at databases.dublincity.ie, it has a full set of Dublin municipal voters' lists 1899 and 1908-1915. The right to vote in local elections was expanded dramatically by the Local Government Acts of the late nineteenth century, making these lists excellent census substitutes. Noel Farrell's 'Exploring Family Origins' series (www.exploringfamilyorigins.com) reproduces electoral lists from the 1930s and 1940s for thirty Irish country towns.

Valuations:

Local valuations, and re-valuations of property were carried out with increasing frequency from the end of the eighteenth century, usually for electoral reasons. The best of these record all householders. Again, details are given in the county source lists.


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