Irish genealogists call for early release of 1926 census to mark anniversary of Irish Free State

By Rosemary Collins, 6 December 2017 - 3:22pm

The Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations has launched an online petition calling for the early release of the census returns

Spinners at the Dublin Horse Show, 1922. Credit: Walshe/ Topical Press Agency/ Getty Images

On the anniversary of the founding of the Irish Free State, the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) has launched a petition calling for the Irish government to release the 1926 census returns ahead of the standard 100-year limit.

On 6 December 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed, bringing an end to the Irish War of Independence and providing for the establishment of the Irish Free State, which was founded exactly a year later on 6 December 1922.

Now, CIGO is proposing releasing the 1926 census as part of the celebrations to mark the Free State’s 100th anniversary in 2022.

Colm Cochrane, chair of CIGO, called for genealogists and historians to “rally to the call” to release the census, as the organisation launched an online petition addressed to Leo Varadkar, the Taoiseach of Ireland, and Josepha Madigan, the heritage minister.

Ireland’s 1993 Statistics Act introduced a 100-year embargo on releasing census data compiled since the founding of the state.

However, the 1901 and 1911 census returns were both released in 1961.

CIGO has been arguing that the census should be released ahead of the current January 2027 set date for a number of years.

It supported the 2006 Genealogy and Heraldry Bill, which reached its second reading in the Seanad Éireann (Irish Senate) and would have allowed for the release of the 1926 Census by making it available after 75 years.

In 2012, the then heritage minister Jimmy Deenihan announced a government commitment to releasing the census data by 2016, the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.

However, this date was missed, so CIGO is now urging the new government to renew its predecessor’s commitment to the early release.

The early release has been proposed in a new private member’s bill in the Seanad.

It would require a significant process of cataloguing and digitising the records, now held in Ireland’s National Archives.

The CIGO petition notes that the 1926 data, from the first census of the Free State, is significant because “it represents a snapshot of Ireland at the end of a very turbulent decade in its history”.

The country had undergone population upheaval because of the First World War, Easter Rising, War of Independence and Civil War, as well as a high rate of emigration.

CIGO also pointed to the successful release of the 1939 Register in England and Wales, with the personal data of individuals who might still be alive redacted, as a successful precedent.

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine contacted the Irish Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, but did not receive a response at the time of publication.

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