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Ireland census substitutes

A number of smaller-scale but hugely useful surveys survive.

Irish census substitutes

Ireland's census substitutes are a collection of surveys carried out in the 18th and 19th centuries across a localised geographical area or distinguishable group of people. Unlike the 19th century population censuses taken by central government, a good number of these smaller-scale surveys survive. They are listed below, together with brief details and an indication of where they can be accessed. Few are online.

View of Kinsale, co Cork.
Two early 19th century surveys survive for Kinsale in county Cork.

Ireland census substitutes: 18th century

1708. A survey of Downpatrick in county Down. Each property in the town is listed, together with details of its size, main tenant and the six-month rent payable. A 1927 copy of this survey is held by PRONI (D 1759/2A/8.)

1740. List (names only) of Protestant householders in parts of counties Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Donegal and Tyrone. Organised by county, barony and parish. Typescript copy freely available in PRONI's Search Room.

1766. The Church of Ireland instructed their rectors to compile a snapshot view of their parishes. They were to compile records of all householders, indicating their religion as either Church of Ireland (Episcopalian), Roman Catholic (Papists) and Presbyterians (Dissenters). They were also to record details of any Catholic priests operating within the parish. Unfortunately, the instructions did not explain how this detail was to be provided so rectors interpreted them differently. Some listed every townland and household within it. But others simply made a numerical record. Even more unfortunately, the original survey returns were destroyed in the infamous 1922 fire at the Public Records Office in Dublin but some transcripts had been made and these are available in PRONI's Search Room. (It's worth searching online, too. I found some of my ancestors on a 1766 list in county Meath.)

1770. Armagh Town population census arranged by street, recording names, occupapations, family size and religion. Held at PRONI (T 808/14938 & T808/14977).

1796. Spinning wheel entitlement. More about this unlikely resource and the vital flat plant industry.

Ireland census substitutes: 19th century

1820s Pigot's Commercial Directory. Provides brief details of the country in alphabetical town order, and lists the names of the local gentry, merchants and artisans by profession and trade. Free to download at Failte Romhat

1824-38. Tithe Applotments Householder Index. Find out more about the genealogical value of the Index.

1831-1900s. National School Registers. PRONI holds a collection of more than 1500 registers for schools in Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone. In the Republic those registers that survive are held locally.

Morpeth Testimonial Scroll, 1841
Morpeth Roll

1841 Morpeth Testimonial Scroll. Measuring 412 metres in length, the scroll contains the signatures of some 300,000 people. Most were politicians, clergy and establishment types but some merchants and non-nobility supporters were also thrown into the mix.

It is presently being digitised in a collaborative project between the National University of Maynooth and commercial genealogical organisations.

More about the Morpeth Roll project.

1841 Census Search Forms, also known as Irish pension records.

1846 &1856, 1870, 1881, 1894 Slater's Commercial Directory. Followed similar format to Pigot's but expanded the number of towns and provided additional details. The 1846 version is available free on Failte Romhat.

1848-64. Griffith's Primary Valuation of Ireland.

1851 Census Search Forms, also known as Irish pension records.

1860s-1900s Cancelled Land Books. Useful for tracking land occupation. Changes of ownership provide clues to dates of death and emigration. Books for Northern Ireland are online. Those for the Republic are held by the Valuation Office.

1876 Landowners of Ireland. This was a survey of those landowners with more than one acre. Gives name and details of the land holding of more than 32,000 owners.

Ireland census substitutes: 20th century

1939 National Register for Northern Ireland. Held by PRONI, this National Register survives intact. It is not online, nor is it available to personal visitors. Applications for information can be made via Freedom Of Information processes (not onerous).

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