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

Eileen O Byrne, Irish Manuscripts Commission, 1981. A list of those converting from Catholicism to the Church of Ireland. The bulk of the entries date from 1760 to 1790.

1740: Protestant householders

This applies to parts of Counties Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Donegal and Tyrone. Arranged by barony and parish, it gives names only. Parts are at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, The Genealogical Office, the National Library of Ireland and the Representative Church Body Library.

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.

1766: Religious Survey

In March and April of this year, Church of Ireland rectors (on the instructions of the government) were 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, some drawing up partial lists, and the most conscientious detailing 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 the National Archives Reading Room, on the open shelves. However, this does not differentiate between those returns which supply names and those which merely give numerical totals.

1775: Dissenters' petitions

A series of petitions to the Irish Parliament protesting against 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 Arthur Tenison Groves, which is now in The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland and is 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 1832-80, the former calendared and classified by year and subject, the latter covered by card indexes. As well as records of the administration of justice, they also include a long series of petitions to the Lord Lieutenant from around the country, generally described as 'memorials', which very often include 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 Irish people in England. Ruth Lawler's transcription has been published on CD-ROM by Eneclann (enec002) and is searchable online at www.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 1837-8. 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 in Chapter 13, 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.

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.

1798: Persons who Suffered Losses in the 1798 Rebellion

A list of claims for compensation from the government for property destroyed by the rebels during the insurrection of 1798, it is particularly useful for the property-owning classes of Counties Wexford, Carlow, Dublin, Kildare and Wicklow.

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. 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

The records produced by the original Reproductive Loan FundInstitution have survived almost entire. After lending ceased at the end of 1848, all the records were eventually returned to its headquarters in London and are now in TNA (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.

A subsidiary website of the TNA, movinghere.org.uk, scanned and indexed part of the records in 2003 to make them more widely available. The records chosen for scanning were 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:

  • An overall account, usually dated 1846-8, showing the names and addresses of the borrower and of their two sureties or guarantors, along with amounts outstanding. 2
  • A more detailed townland-by-townland listing, organised by constabulary sub-district and carried out by the local ric in 1853-4, recording details of deaths, economic circumstances and emigration.

1831-1921: National School Records

In 1831, a countrywide system of primary education was established, under the control of the Board of Commissioners for National Education. The most useful records produced by the system are the school registers themselves, which record the age of the pupil, religion, father's address and occupation, and general observations. Unfortunately, in the Republic of Ireland no attempt has been made to centralise these records; they remain in the custody of local schools or churches. The Public Record Office of Northern Ireland 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 the National Archives in Dublin. These include teachers' salary books, which can be very useful if an ancestor was a teacher.

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.

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.

Various Dates: Freeholders

Freehold property is held either by fee simple, with absolute freedom to dispose of it, by fee tail, in which the disposition is restricted to a particular line of heirs, or simply by life tenure. From the early eighteenth century freeholders lists were drawn up regularly, usually because of 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 small minority of the population. Click here for a county-by-county inventory of Freemen and voters lists.

Voters Lists and Poll Books

Voters lists cover a slightly larger proportion of the population than Freeholders lists, since 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. Since membership of a trade guild carried with it admission as a freeman, and this right was hereditary, a wider range of social classes is covered. Poll books are the records of votes actually cast in elections. Click here for a county-by-county inventory of Freemen and voters lists.

Electoral Records

No complete collection of the electoral lists used in the elections of the twentieth 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 collection of surviving electoral registers is to be found in nai, but even here the coverage of various areas is quite skimpy. The best collection for the twentieth century is in dcla, which has made part of them searchable online at databases.dublincity.ie.


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.
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