1911 census

This guide was last updated in 2009

The 1911 census

From the National Archives of Ireland website you can access the 1911 census, with no charge for viewing any of the material. As with the recently released 1911 England/Wales census, the original manuscript returns for Ireland still survive. These were the forms filled out and signed by the head of each household on census night, which also recorded information unique to the Irish census, such as religious profession, education and whether any members of the household spoke Irish.

The search engine is easy to use. I entered a single surname at random and before long was looking at the household of one Peter Cook, living in Fearon’s Court, Dublin, with his wife and three children. When you have your correct match, you can view both the household return and the enumerator’s forms, which recorded details of the dwelling itself – the number of windows and rooms, type of roof, and overall condition. The number of out-offices and farm buildings attached is also recorded.

Admittedly this project is not complete. The records for 1911 are being digitised first, then those for 1901. The 1911 records for Antrim, Down, Dublin and Kerry are already available, and the other counties are due to be completed by mid-2009, by which time the indexing and e-linking for the 1901 census should also be finished.

Of course the index has errors and the census itself is far from perfect. People in institutions such as prisons, barracks, asylums and workhouses, for example, were often listed in the census only by their initials. But thankfully this site boasts a genuinely useful, interesting and simply organised ‘Help’ section. And those without specific research interests should visit the ‘Look at Ireland in 1911’ page, with its illustrated views of Belfast, Kerry and Dublin, divided into themes such as religion, education, law, transport, commerce and social life.

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