Category Archives: National Archives

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 ?

Who are you?

Donegal Harvest

Stooked Corn in Donegal

I have put some basic  information on my LOOKING INTO THE PAST page which may be of interest to people who are thinking of exploring who they are.  It is possible to do a lot of research without incurring any cost whatsoever.

The National Archives digitization of the 1901 and 1911 census papers has been a revolution and an astonishing  development for those of us who have questions to ask about ourselves.  It is absolutely free to view and search and it is possible to look at the original documents that have been scanned to a very high quality.

In my family, my father and his siblings did not know the former surname of their paternal grandmother.  By searching through the 1901 and 1911 census records I found her forename and because it was relatively unusual, it was possible to find a  marriage certificate (albeit in Latin) which showed that the bride and groom were actually 1st cousins!

It certainly can be frustrating for us here in Ireland, as the majority of our census records  prior to 1901 were either pulped or lost in the social unrest of 1922; burial records largely do not exist, graves were often unmarked,  birth and marriage records may not be available if the local clergy was not particular about  preserving them.

If you are considering looking up your ancestors, I urge you to do it!  It will be a great journey and you  will enjoy discovering who you are !

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Filed under Family History, Genealogy, Ireland, National Archives, Oral History