A Letter from Ireland:
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Five Surprising Ways to Search the 1901 Irish Census Records

Do you wish that it was easier to search for your Irish ancestors online? I think you might be delighted with these 5 Surprising ways to search the 1901 and 1911 Irish census records – and discover leads and possibilities that may have remained elusive up to now.

Céad Míle Fáilte – and welcome to the Letter from Ireland for this week. How are things in your part of the world today? We’re moving nicely along the year – and this first Sunday in September means one thing in Ireland: The All-Ireland Gaelic Football final. This year it’s between County Dublin (again) and County Tyrone. Dublin are the favourites but I have a feeling that Tyrone may spring a surprise or two. Either way, do have a look on youtube for the game highlights – I think you’ll enjoy the spectacle of this fast-moving Irish game.

I’m having a warming cup of Lyon’s Tea as we speak – and I do hope you will join me now with a cup of whatever you’re having yourself as we get into today’s letter.

Maybe you have heard that many Irish records were destroyed in a fire in Dublin in 1922 – and, as a result, it is difficult to source the details for any of your ancestors born in Ireland before the 1860s? While there is some truth in that assertion (there was a fire!) – but Ireland is distinguished among many other countries as having one of the largest data sets made available online and FREE to all who wish to use it.

So, today I thought we would take a few minutes to explore how to use the 1901 Irish census in five ways that you may find surprising!

Five Surprising Ways to Search the 1901 and 1911 Irish Census Records.

 1.Find People who lived in Ireland in the early 1800s.

One of the useful things about the census data set is that it gives the ages of people. You may be thinking “my folks left Ireland in the 1850s – what use is the 1901 census to me?”  Well, if you search the census for people who were approximately 85 years of age in 1901, you will find lots of people who were contemporaries of your ancestors before they emigrated.

I did a search for all who were 85 years of age (plus or minus 5 years) in 1901 and found 48,938 people. These are people who were born in the early part of the 19th century. You may find a relative or two in here! Click here to see the results.

2. Find People who were born outside Ireland.

The 1901 census also specifies the country of birth for an individual. For example, see here for the 1,441 people were born in the USA (tick the “Show all information” box and see the “Birthplace” column). Most of these were the children of immigrants and returning immigrants. I wonder what their story was?

3. Find Visitors on the Night.

The ten-yearly census did not get in the way of normal life. People visited other houses – and many of these are located in the census outside their own houses while visiting a relative. Click here to see the 30,412 visitors on the night of the 1901 census (tick the “Show all information” box and see the “Relation to head of household” column). Maybe you will find an ancestor who has remained elusive up to now?

4. Find Police Constables.

This is just one type of occupation listed in the census. Being a Royal Irish Constable was quite contentious around 1901 – and many of our Green Room members have ancestors (and questions) that fall under this occupation and with colourful stories to match! Click here to see all 2,122 listed RIC Constables in the 1901 census. (tick the “Show all information” box and see the “Occupation” column).

Of course, you could break that down and look for all RIC officers based in County Louth (click here for the 25 I found).

5. Is My Surname Irish, English or Scottish?

That’s a question I hear all the time. We can use the 1901 census to get a broad feeling for the surnames that arrived in Ireland from the time of the plantations from the 1600s onwards – as the majority of these families remained protestant up to 1901 and beyond.

If we select individuals in the 1901 census who were Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist – we have the majority of the protestant population in 1901. Here is an example – 400,987 who declared as Presbyterian (tick the “Show all information” box and see the “Religion” column). Have a look at the surnames and this will give you an idea of many surnames that were introduced to Ireland in from the 1600s. Names such as Adair, Duncan, Greer etc.

So, there are five simple searches that you can carry out on our 1901 Irish census. Remember, the 1901 census gives you a lot more than its title suggests. It helps you to look into the past prior to 1901 as well as giving you a bigger picture of trends and people groupings across Ireland. You can then use this information to help narrow down the search for an elusive Irish ancestor.

And, best of all, it’s available for free.

What to Do Next.

Here are some details on searching the 1901 census – and a few challenges for you to try for yourself:

How to search the 1901 Irish census online:

  1. Go to http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/search/
  2. Select “1901” as the “census year” and click on “More Search Options” to open up the wider search window.
  3. Then, try the following searches:
    • Find all people with an occupation of “Cooper”. Next, find all “Coopers” – but only in County Kerry.
    • Search for all people of the Methodist religion in County Wexford.
    • Search for all people in County Galway who were born in Wales.

Get the picture? Once you have had some fun familiarising yourself with how to search the census, you’ll be surprised just how much it can help to verify and uncover connections and individuals as you research your own Irish family history.

Do let us know how you get on!

Full help on how to search the census is available here.

Did you find this letter useful? Every week we share stories of Irish surnames, Irish counties and heroric Irish individuals. If you’d like to recieve a FREE weekly Letter from Ireland simply click here to subscribe).

That’s it for this week. Do feel free to COMMENT BELOW to share any stories you might have from your Irish family tree – or just to say hello!

Slán for this week, Mike & Carina.

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