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Genealogy records

Census returns

19th and early 20th-century census digitisation projects


The census returns for all thirty-two counties for 1901 and 1911 are available free online. Fully indexed by name, the returns are searchable across fields which were filled in on the original census forms – thirteen fields were returned in 1901 and fifteen in 1911 and include religion, location, occupation, place of birth, relationship to head of household, literacy status, county or country of origin and Irish language proficiency etc.


The site also contains a wealth of photographs and essays on life in Ireland at that time with links to illustrative census forms and background information on topics such as evictions, industry, literature, sport and transport as well as an illustrated account of the country in 1911.


Census feedback – submit amendments and corrections


Census project information


Census copy – application form



A census of the Irish population was taken every ten years from 1821 until 1911 and manuscript returns for each household survive for all 32 counties for 1901 and 1911. The returns are arranged by townland in rural areas and by street in urban areas. The returns for each townland or street consist of:


(a) Forms (Forms A) were filled in by the head of each household, giving the names of all people in that household on census night and their age, occupation, religion and county or city of birth (or country of birth if born outside Ireland).


(b) Forms (Forms N, B1, B2) were filled in by the official taking the census, summarising the returns for that townland or street.


No manuscript returns survive for 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 but there are some returns for 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 covering parts of the following counties and these can searched for free on our genealogy website.



Belfast City (one ward only)



1821 and 1841



Dublin City (index to heads of household only)



1821, 1841 and 1851


1813 (numerical return for the barony of Longford) and 1821

King’s County (Offaly)


Londonderry (Derry)

1831 (1834 supplement/revision)






A list of names of heads of household in the returns of 1851 for Belfast City and Dublin City can be consulted in the Reading Room as can the 1851 Dublin City Census, Chart’s Index of Heads of Household cd-rom compiled and edited by Seán Magee (Eneclann, 2001).


There are also census search forms for each county giving the results of searches made in the returns of 1841 and 1851 (largely) for old age pension purposes covering the years c.1908-1922 (but mainly c.1915-1922) and these are organised within each county by barony, parish, townland or urban street and the name of the applicant (including maiden name where applicable). The result of the search is also noted, though a positive search which located the family did not necessarily locate the applicant.


An index to the 1841 and 1851 census returns that appear in the Old Age Pension claim forms (T550) is available to consult on microfiche in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland while there are also some other copies made from the returns of 1821-1851 and there is a list of 19th-century census returns – miscellaneous copies and certified copies – available to consult in our Reading Room.


Other partial and localised census returns exist for various dates and various parts of the country in the National Archives. The best guide to this source is John Grenham, Tracing your Irish Ancestors, the Complete Guide (3rd edition, Dublin, 2006).


The (so-called) Agricultural Censuses for county Antrim (a Return of the Live and Dead Stock etc) 1803-1804 and County Louth (an Account of the Corn in the Possession of the Inhabitants of the County of Louth) c.1800-1816, are available in the National Archives under Official Papers OP 153/103 and OPA 163 respectively. They are not a census return as such, but rather returns of live and dead stock as well as corn and implements, returns taken when the country was in a vulnerable military state.


Although it is not a census but is useful for the 1790s is the flax growers listing of those eligible for a spinning wheel from the Linen Board. It lists names and parishes, sometimes baronies but not townland and further information is available at


Although differing significantly in format and the type of information found in the censuses taken in the 19th and early 20th centuries as described above, another source for genealogical research is the religious census of 1766, authorised by the Irish House of Lords in March of that year ‘to return a list of the several families in their parishes to this House on the first Monday after the Recess, distinguishing which are Protestants and which are Papists, as also a list of the several reputed Popish priests and friars residing in their parishes’.


This census survives in original or transcript form and is organised under the headings of parish, county and diocese and is a return of both Protestant and Papist (Roman Catholic) heads of household, sometimes listing names or sometimes merely numbers. A list of the returns for each diocese is available to search by clicking on the diocesan returns list.


The Elphin Census (M 2464) for the Church of Ireland diocese of Elphin has been edited by Marie-Louise Legg as The Elphin Census, 1749 (IMC, 2004). The data for this census was collected under the direction of Bishop Edward Synge of Elphin who was anxious to know the proportion of Protestants to ‘Papists’ – the census revealed the ratio to be 3 Protestants to 39 ‘Papists’. There are no surviving details as to the identity of the enumerators or as to how the census was conducted.


Some Inhabitants of the Baronies of Newcastle and Uppercross, Co. Dublin, c.1650′ (M 2467) has been edited by Richard Flatman for the Irish Genealogical Research Society (volumes 7-8, 1989-1993). It details lists of householders and servants organised according to parishes and townlands – the fullest entries include name, age, stature, face, hair, occupation and disability and approximately 4,000 names are returned.




James Joyce

James Joyce's family census return, 1901 (Census 1901, Dublin, 28/16)