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National Census 1911 online

Monday, 28 September 2009

National Census 1911

The Census 1911 came fully & nationally online a few weeks ago and scored 4.5million hits in the first 48hours! It is the biggest online free census website in the world for 1911.
1926 is the next census as the Civil War was on in 1923.

Who is the guest?

Catriona Crowe, Senior Archivist, National Archives

Tell us about how you got involved in this project and how long are you working in the National Archives?
They did the launch of the www for the 1911 Census in several phases - the first part was for Dublin City and surrounding areas in December 2007. Then some more came online last year and now the rest of the nation is covered for the full 1911 census.

But weren't many of our census records lost?
She hates to have to say that the census records from Britain and Ireland from 13th century to late 18th Century are all gone, including the earliest modern English language census of 1821. 1821-1851 are destroyed gone in the fire of when in 1922 the Public Records Office in the Four Courts was blown up.
1861 and 1871 censes destroyed by a bureaucratic order, 1881 & 1891 were destroyed due to the war and paper shortages. There was nothing in 1921 as the Civil War going on. So we only have 1911 and 1901.
1901 will be up very soon - half by Christmas of this year and the rest in early 2010.

A lot of people are now becoming interested in Irish history. Before you would have had to go to the national archives. You had to know where the family was from, down to the townland or street, as the listings were not indexed by name, they were indexed by place. Now you can search by name. You just need a name like: John Murphy, you might get 400 John Murphys in the Dublin areas, so bit by bit you narrow down the search - location, occupation or religion can help. It's a free site and there are photos also. There are no image charges, can narrow it down.

So how do you search online for your ancestors?
Go to: and key in the family name and first name. The less info you key in the wider the option you will get so you can hone it down by putting a city or county in for example.

They had 4.5million hits on the online in the first 48 hours - internationally and in Ireland.

When you go online you will see the census, as it was filled out, in the original handwriting. If they couldn't read or write (and illiteracy was high at the time), you had to put an x. These are the original house script returns. Anyone can download and print off and frame, anecdotally a lot of people are doing that.

There are contextual sections on social life, sport etc. Two young historians Paul Rouse and Mark Duncan worked on this (they also sometimes do work for Prime Time). This is an area they want to expand as it is very helpful to people to understand the society and circumstances of the time.

Can search by occupation, language, nationality coming up, in early October. This is the most comprehensive census online website in the world and it's free. Nearly all charge money for it, we don't. It will be very good for Fáilte Ireland and there are plans to cooperate with them to use it as a tool that will attract people to Ireland for tourism.

What information is listed on the 1911 Census?
The basic building blocks: First and second names, religion, relations to the head of the household, age, gender, literacy status, married women, how many years marriage, how many children, how many have survived. 13 born, but only 5 were surviving. There was such high child mortality in Dublin and Belfast a lot of forgotten by their brothers and sisters, this can be quite a shock to people who realise they'd forgotten brothers and sisters.

You can find those names etc in another office that does birth marriage and death certs can be accessed from the General Register Office: .

Also try Family Search: and the National Library of Ireland - and the Church of Ireland Representative Church Body Library .

There is also a free genealogical advice service on all other sources of family history just like on "Who do you think you are" which has just arrived in the National Archives on Bishop's Street. Just call in no appointments necessary. You may have to wait but there is no charge.

Also try the super service which the Mormon church set this up - includes record of births deaths and marriages index from 1858-19something free on the internet.

Certs from the General Register office. Other sources would be the National Photographic archive or National Library of Ireland, where the Catholic Church records are on microfilm but they are v expensive - this is called .

What number of rooms were occupied at the time?
26,000 families lived in single rooms in tenements in the cities around Ireland. There were often 8/9/10 members in a family at that time. There is a class-based shame about living in poverty. Catriona believes that people instead of feeling shame about those lives lived in poverty, should be very proud of having survived those difficult days.

The information can be used for research projects (2nd or 3rd level). Some of the forms are filled out in the old Irish script. They had to get that translated.

Did you come across any well known names in your research?
Some areas where you'd think names would be written in Irish, names were in fact recorded in English - like on the Aran Islands, Peig Sayers filled out the form in English as Margaret Guiheen!

W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory were registered in a hotel on South Frederick Street, Dublin as they were in Dublin doing work for the Abbey. He spelt his name wrong - Yeates?!
-See the U-lay shot by Robin (in interactive potential) drilling down to Yeats staying in Dublin the night of the Census, Lady Gregory also in the hotel.

Oliver St John Gogarty wrote that he was single, then had to strike that out, when he remembered he had 3 children and a long suffering wife!

You can also search by your street name (if your street existed in 1911 naturally!) and look through it to see what shops were there, who lived there, are any of the same families there now etc. History teachers are using it a lot now for the Leaving Certificate. Catriona lives on Nottingham Street now and in 1911 it was mainly populated by solid protestant working class families. It is more mixed now.

You will find a lot of Jewish names in 1911 Dublin, like Terence Killeen - the man who Joyce based his Leopold Bloom character on, and he had a wife called Marian (Molly), in Clanbrassil Street, which then had a thriving Jewish community. Dublin was a multicultural city. All the waiters in the Shelbourne Hotel at the time were German, they lived in a house on Kildare Street. They all later had to be interned in the Curragh during WW1. There were also a lot of French Governesses living in Ireland at the time.

Did you look up your own family history?
Yes Catriona's Dad is from the part of Clare near Kilrush, a village called Knock, near Killimer. She was surprised to discover that area survived the famine very well. It had an industrious, hardworking tenantry.

In fact the tenants had become creditors to the landlords! The potato blight was selective across Ireland, hitting some areas and not others. There were plenty of fish available. And the Quakers were great; they brought the seeds for vegetables.

People planted root vegetables and ate them instead of spuds. People sometime wonder why the people didn't eat the fish? Well most fishermen had had to sell their fishing equipment in order to buy the staple of Indian meal, and were then stranded on land, with no fish.

Has this census taught you anything?
This census took place a few years before the 1913 Lock Out, the 1916 Rising, and WW1. Nothing was obvious that these bi events were coming down the line. So in life nothing is safe and secure. Within a decade all was transformed, so who knows what will happen in a year or 2 that could change our lives forever.?

National Library of Ireland (

How do you use it?

Go to:

.then drill down to Search the census records for Ireland 1911
Then type in your name or for example Yeates and William in the first 2 categories and the county of Dublin. Click on search, and you get 6 options.

Choose William B. Yeates name (he mis-spelt his name) and you will go into a page also showing Lady Gregory. The 2 were staying in16 in Frederick Street, South (Royal Exchange, Dublin) an old hotel on the evening of the census 1911. They were working in the Abbey Theatre at the time.

Choose Household Return (Form A) No. 3 and you will see the original signatures and details of all.
And that's how you do it!

You can look up your street and who lived there in 1911.

There are societal contexts given of Dublin, Belfast and Kerry

What was Ireland like in 1911?
See our illustrated account of the country in 1911:
. Read about transport, and look at a tram timetable for 1911
. Read about literature and see Oliver St. John Gogarty's census return, where he momentarily forgot he was married
. Read about Belfast's shipbuilders, and see the Titanic under construction
. Read about the Blasket Islands and see Peig Sayers's (Margaret Guiheen's) census return
. Read about sport and see a photo of the All-Ireland winning Kerry football team of 1903
Read about cultural life in Belfast, and see the audience at the Grand Opera House