Irish Family History

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 Blog – that Fine Gael has stated in their manifesto : ‘Fine Gael will examine the feasibility of releasing the 1926 census to stimulate genealogy tourism.’


Filed under Ancestry, Census 1901, Census 1911, Census 1926, Family History, Genealogy, Ireland, National Archives, Who do you think you are ?

4 responses to “Irish Family History

  1. UPDATE: Today I saw on the Irish Family History Blog – that Fine Gael has stated in their manifesto : ‘Fine Gael will examine the feasibility of releasing the 1926 census to stimulate genealogy tourism.’

  2. I am just a small cog in a great big wheel of constant movement, working to get as many records released and transcribed as possible. Don’t most of us have that innate curiousity to know from whence we came? By learning of the past, we can build on our foundations… not just for tourism, which will of course increase as a welcome side effect, but for establishing the pride in family, also the strength, for if we know where we belong, we have the security of knowing that we are not alone in our journey, where ever that may take us.

    We often hear that society is changing, and not for the better… in some ways that may be true, but it is up to us to remind ourselves and others as to what is important, that we are not the first to want to explore more options, to constantly learn and grow, and to retain the standards and strengths of those gone before us. Besides, by looking back, the road ahead becomes less daunting and far more clear.

  3. J. G. Burdette

    Ireland is such a beautiful country. I like the picture in this post.

  4. The picture in this post is indeed beautiful – the Atlantic Ocean on a windy day- some few miles from where I used to live in County Donegal in the north west of Ireland. The deserted house – once a home – is the key thing about the picture. My late father used to tell me that there was a large family reared in this house. A large family was 8, 10 or more children – I do not recall how many exactly. He said they were very poor and the children did not have shoes. All of the children emigrated, mostly I believe to the United States of America. There they did very well for themselves and I believe that they ended up at the top of their professions. I feel a particular affinity with abandoned homes, and this one is in a spectacular location – although not very desirable in the teeth of a cold winter gale.
    Donegal has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world!

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