The National Archives of Ireland has made the Irish Census of 1901 available online from today.

View a gallery of images from the turn of the 20th century

On the website, people will be able to view the Census and perform a variety of searches under forename, surname and county as well as more advanced searches including religion, occupation, Irish language proficiency, specified illnesses and literacy status.

The website was launched in December 2007 and the entire 1911 Census has been available online since 2008.

The 1911 census was prepared first because the quality of the microfilm used to digitise the images is better than the microfilm of 1901 as well as the fact that there are much more microfilm reels available for 1911 than 1901.

A research partnership between the National Archives of Ireland and Library and Archives Canada has helped facilitate the digitisation, indexing and contextualisation of the 1901 and 1911 Census records to preservation standard.

The digitisation of the equivalent records for England, Wales and Scotland has proved hugely popular with users, as has the digitisation of Canadian and US Census records.

Since the 1911 Census was put on the internet three years ago, just under seven million visits have been recorded to the website.

The images and databases are enhanced by contextual material consisting of historical commentary, photographs, digitised documents from the period from Ireland and Canada and links to relevant scholarly and genealogical sites.

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 institutions.

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.

The National Archives hopes to link directly to the printed Census reports from 1901 and 1911, which are being digitised by the UK Data Archive. According to the National Archives, this would greatly enhance the scholarly value of the site.

They also say that it would probably be feasible to do a follow-through exercise on Irish individuals and families who emigrated to Canada, finding them in the Irish Census and later in the Canadian census.

LAC has already mounted an online exhibition of documents in their custody relating to the Irish in Canada, accompanied by text from scholars in the field. The Shamrock and the Maple Leaf can be found here.

The returns for 1901 will be online, with all search options available, by mid-2010. The website is freely accessible, with no charge for viewing any of the material.

Watch Capital D from June 2008 when the 1911 census was made available