It is estimated that there are about 80 million people who make up the Irish Diaspora. If even a tiny fraction of these are asking ‘Who am I ? ‘ it would be a significant number. But oh! the frustrations, as there is a dearth of Irish records available for them to dig into!
Our Census records for 1831, 1841, 1851 went up in flames in the Four Courts in 1922; the 1861 & 1871 records were officially destroyed; the 1881 and 1891 records were ‘pulped’. We are left with the 1901 and 1911 census records. These are the only family specific records available to people trying to trace their roots, their specific earlier generations. The census records enable us to open the door, peer into their kitchens ,and see who was sitting round their hearth on a particular evening and who was missing.
There was no census in Ireland in 1921 because of the War of Independence. The next census undertaken was in 1926. In Ireland we have a ‘hundred year rule’ that prohibits the release of information until a century has elapsed.
The period from 1911 to 1926 saw seismic changes to society, socially and politically. Emigration, First World War, Independence, Civil War… these occured in this period. The 1926 census is an invaluable resource for tracking the changes and identifying the ravages on families and districts as a result of those turbulent times. It is not however, due for official release until 2027.
There are various campaigns underway pressing for the earlier release of these precious records. The rising tide of interest in Family History among people at home and those scattered across the globe should be good reason to focus the attention of the decision makers. Perhaps they will become tourists as a result of what they find!
Stephen C Smyrl had a very eloquent and informative article on this very topic in the Irish Times in January last. I urge you to take a few moments to read it …just click here.
There is also an online petition addressed to An Taoiseach (which presumably will be updated after polling on Friday), urging the early release of these records which you can see here.
UPDATE: Today I saw on the Irish Family History Bloghttp://irishfamilyhistory.ie/blog – that Fine Gael has stated in their manifesto : ‘Fine Gael will examine the feasibility of releasing the 1926 census to stimulate genealogy tourism.’