• Irish Family History: Census Substitutes

    In the previous post of the seriesNicola Morris explored the surviving Irish census returns. In this issue, she discusses the main 19th century census substitutes; what the records will tell us, where to find them online and how to best use them for research.

    NB: Ancestry and Find My Past are free to search, but require subscriptions to view records.


    I may have already mentioned that almost the entire collection of 19th century census returns for Ireland were destroyed by 1922.  Genealogists have spent the last one hundred years finding so called census substitutes: sources that document the population that can be used instead of the destroyed census returns.

    There are two very important census substitutes for Irish genealogical research, namely Griffith’s Valuation and the Tithe Applotment Books.

    Griffith’s Valuation

    The most well-known Irish census substitute is Griffith’s Valuation, also known as the Primary Valuation of Ireland.  Griffith’s Valuation was a nationwide survey of property undertaken between 1847 and 1864 to value property for the purpose of taxation.  The taxation was levied on property for the support of the local Poor Law Union. Nearly every single property in Ireland was surveyed and valued, from a small cottage valued at 2s. to large houses and extensive farms, making it the most comprehensive record of households in the country for the mid-19th century.

    Griffith’s Valuation recorded the head of the household, who was the person responsible for paying the tax on the property, the name of the immediate lessor (landlord) and the type, size and value of the property.

    What this means is that Griffith’s Valuation is a record of nearly every single household in the country, although only the name of the head of the household is recorded.   Why is this important? Well, in the absence of the 1851 census, Griffith’s Valuation might be the only way to establish an address for your Irish ancestors.

    Let’s say you have found a marriage certificate for your ancestor in the 1870s or 1880s. The marriage certificate should record the name of your ancestor’s father, as well as his occupation.  If your ancestor was born in the 1830s, 1840s or early 1850s in Ireland, we would expect to find his father in Griffith’s Valuation, if he was still alive.

    A search of Griffith’s Valuation for all households headed by men of that name will identify potential family addresses.  It is important to bear in mind that you are searching for the head of the household in the 1850s. This may be your ancestor’s father, or even his grandfather.  If your ancestor’s father was deceased, the property may have been headed by his widow or one of his older sons. Don’t search for someone who would have been a child in the 1850s, they will not be the recorded head of household.

    Griffith’s Valuation will identify the lot number of the property, the townland, the civil parish and the county in which the name appears.  This will help you to establish the exact location of the family holding and the corresponding Roman Catholic parish in which your ancestor might have been baptised.

    Sir Richard John Griffith was an Irish geologist, mining engineer and chairman of the Board of Works of Ireland, who completed the first complete geological map of Ireland and authored the valuation of Ireland – known ever since as Griffith's Valuation.

    Of course families with common names can be more difficult to find and you may have to focus your search on a specific county or even a specific parish.  On John Grenham’s website www.johngrenham.com the name search uses Griffith’s Valuation to plot the appearance of surnames around the country.  This function will give you an overview of where particular surnames appear in the Valuation, which can be broken down by county and then by parish.  There is also a function to search for a second surname. This will illustrate where two surnames appear together in a particular parish. This can be helpful if you know the maiden name of your ancestor’s mother or his wife, as most people married within the population of their home parish.

    Griffith’s Valuation will also describe the type of holding that was valued.  Most holdings consist of a house, offices (farm buildings) and land. If the ancestor who was head of household at the time of Griffith’s Valuation was a farmer, you are searching for someone leasing a house and land rather than just a house in an urban area.  If your ancestor was a blacksmith, you are looking for someone who leased a forge or smithy. Some individuals leased more than one holding. They may have leased a house, offices and land as well as several plots of land. Your ancestor’s residence will be where a house is recorded.

    The only group that might be absent from Griffith’s Valuation are the inhabitants of tenement dwellings in large urban areas.  In the case of these buildings the occupiers of rooms were not recorded, only the person who paid the tax on the property. Also absent in some cases are herds who were given a house on land where they were employed.  While Griffith’s Valuation is not entirely comprehensive, it is the best record that we have of the population in the mid-19th century.  If you don’t know where in Ireland your ancestors lived in mid-19th century Ireland, Griffith’s Valuation is the best source for establishing their townland and civil parish address.

    Where to Find Griffith’s Valuation Online
    Griffith’s Valuation is available online at a number of different websites.  It is freely available for research at http://www.askaboutireland.ie/... however, the search engine is not very flexible and usually requires a specific spelling of the surname.  Griffith’s Valuation is also available at www.findmypast.iewith much broader surname variants.  On both sites you can also search Griffith’s Valuation for a particular townland and the listed occupiers of that townland at the time of the valuation.  John Grenham (Tithe Applotment Books) links each townland to Griffith’s Valuation on the www.askaboutireland.ie website, which is a quick and easy way to get to the townland you are interested in.

    Griffith’s Valuation also identifies the immediate lessor (landlord) of each property.  In some cases the immediate lessor will be a ‘middleman’ who leased the property from someone else and then sublet it to tenants.  In other cases the Valuation will identify the land owner. This can be a useful way to determine whether there are surviving estate papers, like rent rolls or leases, which might document an earlier generation of your ancestors in Ireland.  If you find your ancestor on the estate of the Earl of Powerscourt in Wicklow or the Earls of Bantry in Cork and Kerry, there may be a great deal more records for these estates in the National Library of Ireland or the Boole Library in University College Cork.  

    Valuation Office Revision Books

    It is also possible to trace the occupancy of a property found in Griffith’s Valuation forward using the Valuation Office Revision Books.  The Valuation Office Revision Books are updated versions of Griffith’s Valuation that record any changes to the occupancy, ownership, size and value of a property.  

    The Valuation Office Revision Books are manuscript note books in which the original valuation has been transcribed.  When the property was revisited and changes were notified, the changes were recorded in coloured ink, with the date recorded in the margin in the same colour ink.  When the notebook was filled, a new notebook was started. Each notebook can cover a period of anything from 5 to 20 years. Using these books it is possible to trace the occupancy of a house forward from 1850 to the 1970s, when the valuation of residential properties ceased in Ireland.  The Revision Books will demonstrate when a property passed from the original occupier to his widow or sons following his death. They will also demonstrate when a property was divided between two or three sons or if a property was transferred from the original occupier to his son-in-law. In some cases the emigration of a family is written in the margin, indicating the date by which they had left their property.

    Unfortunately, the Valuation Office Revision Books for the Republic of Ireland have not been published online and can only be accessed by visiting the Valuation Office in the Irish Life Centre in Dublin City.  Timeline Research offer a copying service for the Valuation Office Revision Books and orders can be placed here: http://timeline.ie/irish-genea....

    The Valuation Office Revision Books for Northern Ireland are freely available for research on the website of the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/in...).

    Accompanying the Valuation Office Revision Books are the Union or Revision Maps, these are maps that show the boundaries of each land holding and were created in the 1880s and 1890s.  These maps have been published on the www.askaboutireland.ie website with Griffith’s Valuation and are labelled as Griffith’s Maps.  However, it should be noted that these colour maps actually date from the 1880s and do not always correspond with the lot numbers set out in Griffith’s Valuation.  These maps should be used with the Valuation Office Revision Books from the 1880s and 1880s for an accurate record of who occupied each numbered lot of land.

    Tithe Applotment Books

    Another similar census substitute are the Tithe Applotment Books.  The Tithe Applotment Books were compiled between 1823 and 1838 for the purpose of assessing the rate of the Tithe.  The Tithe was a religious tax which was levied for the upkeep of the established Church, the Church of Ireland. Needless to say the Tithe was an unpopular tax and was abolished in 1838 after much civil unrest.

    The Tithe was only levied on certain types of agricultural land, which means that this was not a comprehensive survey, but it is the best national record of land holdings in Ireland from the early 19th century.

    If you locate your ancestor’s family in Griffith’s Valuation and have established their townland and civil parish address, you can now search for an earlier generation of the same family leasing agricultural land in the same townland in the 1820s and 1830s.  This may identify the father of the person you found in Griffith’s Valuation.

    Tithe Applotment Books Online
    The Tithe Applotment Books have been digitised and freely published online at http://titheapplotmentbooks.na... but before you go rushing off to check this collection there are some serious problems with this publication that should be taken into consideration.

    Numerous errors in the spelling of surname, first names and placenames were made when this collection was transcribed.  Searching for your ancestors under their surname may be fruitless, if their name has been incorrectly transcribed. Equally, townlands and parishes have been indexed in the wrong counties.  This makes the search function of this site unreliable. However, it is possible to use the site to browse copies of the Tithe Applotment Books. If you know the parish and townland in which your ancestors were living you can click through to the relevant, county, parish and then townland and inspect the original pages for that area and determine for yourself whether there are any relevant entries.  If you do need to use the search engine, try using wild cards. Rather than searching for Loughlin, search for L*l*n to see what turns up, you can always narrow your search, depending on the volume of results.

    The Tithe Applotment Books for most of Northern Ireland have been indexed online at www.rootsireland.ie which is a subscription website.  The index only records the name of the head of the house and the townland address and year of the book.  The details of the land holding are not included.

    The Tithe Applotment Books were compiled prior to the first Ordnance Survey of Ireland.  The Ordnance Survey of Ireland standardised the spelling of Irish placenames. Prior to the survey sources like the Tithe Applotment Books would have used variant spellings of townland names.  The books also included sub divisions of townlands, which were dispensed with by the Ordnance Survey. This means that the Tithe Applotment Books can often be the only record of a locally used placename.  If you find a placename on a civil certificate or in a parish register, that you cannot find in the Index of Townlands or in Griffith’s Valuation, it is worth checking the list of townland names for a specific parish in the Tithe Applotment Books, where you may find a reference to the local name.

    Although Griffith’s Valuation and the Tithe Applotment Books only record the names of the head of the household, they are the only surviving national census substitutes and are a very important resource for establishing a family address in the first half of the 19th century. A family address can lead to parish registers, estate records and other local census substitutes that might document your family further.


    Nicola Morris M.A.G.I is a professional genealogist and member of Accredited Genealogists Ireland. She is the director of Timeline Research Ltd, one of Ireland’s leading genealogical research companies. Nicola has undertaken the Irish research for WDYTYA? in the UK and US and has appeared in numerous episodes. She was also the presenter of the first series of the Genealogy Roadshow broadcast in Ireland in 2011.

  • International Women's Day 2018

    Today is, perhaps, the perfect day to focus on your female ancestors, who are so often under-represented in the records we use to trace our genealogy.

    It’s no secret that sourcing women in the records is often more problematic than finding men. Women are born with one surname and, if they marry, die with another whilst women in the past often didn’t receive automatic guardianship of the children or inheritance of their father or husband’s estate and finances, meaning they often disappear from legal paperwork or other important documents. 

    Perhaps unfortunately, one of the most important aspects of researching a female ancestor is fully documenting her male counterpart: be it a husband, brother, father or son. Hidden clues about the women connected to a male ancestor emerge in many places, including census reports, marriage certificates and other legal documents. 

    Read on to discover some tips for researching your female ancestors, and share your female ancestor’s stories with us over on Facebook and Twitter!

    • Finding a maiden name is essential to further research on a female ancestor. The best place to locate a maiden name is on a marriage record, but it may also be found on the birth certificates of a women’s children, her (or her husband’s) death certificate and some children’s baptismal records. However, if the records prove elusive there are some other strategies to consider.
    • Census returns can list visitors that are members of the matriarch's family. The example in the image below shows that Mary Fosbrook's maiden name was Swindle. Note the different surnames of people in the household for future reference; even if they are unknown now, they may provide clues later on. Visit FreeCEN for open access to over 330 million individuals transcribed from census data.

      Census excerpt; contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

      • Make use of the ‘Witness Search’ feature on FreeREG; you may find surnames of extended family.
      • Over on FreeBMD, you will find the mother's maiden name in the birth index from July 1911, and spouse's surname in the marriage index from January 1912. Also, the GRO search now gives details of the mother's maiden name going back to 1837.
      • Look at the middle names of your ancestor’s children as some women used their maiden name as the middle name for their children.
      • Did your female ancestor serve in the military? The records of the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (1917-1929), the Women’s Royal Air Force Service Records (1918-1920) and the Office Files & Service Registers for the Women’s Royal Naval Reserve are all available online (via pay-site findmypast.com).
      Members of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, playing hockey, France

      Members of the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps, playing hockey, France. No known copyright restrictions.

      • If a female ancestor is proving elusive in your search of the records, try researching her under her husband’s name with the ‘Mrs’ prefix. For example, ‘Mrs Edward Brown’.
      • Census records may show older people with a different surname  living in the same household - these may be the woman’s parents, so their surname would be her maiden name.
      • Check the military pensions records. War widows often had to provide details about their life when applying for a military pension after their husband’s death. If a male ancestor served in the military in the 19th or early 20th century, details about his female dependents may be contained in the pension records.
      • Do you have a suffragette in your family tree? The personal records of suffragettes and suffragists are now published online at the National Archives, and include arrest records, parliamentary papers, watch lists, personal statements, reports of force-feeding and transcripts of speeches.
    • Opening Death Data for Genealogists and Other Historians

      Open Data image with logos

      Open Data Day is an annual celebration of open data all over the world. On Saturday 3rd March groups from around the world will create local events on the day where they will use open data in their communities. It is an opportunity to show the benefits of open data and encourage the adoption of open data policies in government, business and civil society.

      All outputs are open for everyone to use and re-use.  Research Data is one of four themes for this year's Open Data Day.

      All three of our current projects contain information which is invaluable to family historians and other researchers. The indices to the registrations of death in England and Wales are, of course, freely available on www.freebmd.org.uk. Civil registration only started in 1837, so to find deaths which occurred earlier, you can look on www.freereg.org.uk, to see Church of England and other burials.  Later burials are there too, from the Church of England Registers and a growing range of religious organisations and secular bodies.  Most recently, we have received images of burial registers from Lancashire that are awaiting transcription - sign up here to help get them on line sooner!

      Image of a desk with genealogy paraphernalia

      Surprisingly, perhaps, the census records we transcribe and share on www.freecen.org.uk also have information about death. On https://freecen1.freecen.org.uk you can search by occupation, and this includes those who worked in various aspects of the businesses surrounding death.  Restricting the search to Cornwall, in 1841 there was just one (funeral) "undertaker" recorded (in St Austell) In 1851, four undertakers are recorded:

      Image showing details of four undertakers

      In 1861, just one again is recorded, and in 1871 five including Jabez Parkyn.  A decade later, the Parkyn name becomes even more visible, as the children of the family (shown below in the 1871 census) continued the family trade, all three describing themselves as "Builder & Undertaker":

      1871 Census, Parkyn Family

      But in 1891, although the number had grown to 11, none of them was a Parkyn.  Jabez senior and Jabez junior (now spelled Parkin) are recorded purely as Builders, Jabez William A had become a painter.

      Parkin 1881 census

      This brief look raises many questions - many undertakers had more than one occupation (carpenter or mason being common).  Were others who were recorded only as masons or carpenters also arranging funerals? We have not yet enabled a search-by-occupation feature on FreeCEN2 - we'd love to know if you would use this feature, and how you would like the search of occupations to work there.

      I restricted the data to Cornwall, as we now have permission to share this dataset as Open Data - please contact us to request access to this dataset. Sharing this data as Open means that the history of undertaking in Victorian Cornwall can be undertaken (excuse the pun!) much more easily than for other counties.

      Please join us in exploring our records on 3rd March, commenting here or on our Facebook event.  We'd love to know anything you are doing with the data of death - for example if you are researching the Undertaking Parkyns of Cornwall, exploring longevity, or if you would like us to transcribe the records of your church or share the transcriptions from a graveyard survey.

    • Irish Family History: Census Returns

      In the fourth post out of six on Researching Your Irish Family History, Nicola Morris explores the surviving Irish census returns, where to find them online and how to get the best out of the records.

      NB: Ancestry and Find My Past are free to search, but require subscriptions to view records.


      Have I already mentioned the destruction of the 19th century Irish census returns?  This loss appears to be the basis for the erroneous belief that Irish genealogy is impossible.

      Population censuses as we understand them today began in Ireland in 1821 and continued every decade until 1911.  Unfortunately, the census returns from 1861 to 1891 were destroyed during the First World War, possibly because of a paper shortage.  In the 1922 Public Records Office fire the returns from 1821 to 1851 were also largely destroyed.  Only fragments of these early census returns survive.  This means that the only complete surviving census returns for Ireland are for 1901 and 1911.  However, as good genealogical miners, Irish genealogists know how to squeeze every last drop of information out of what survives.

      The 1901 and 1911 census of Ireland returns have been freely published online by the National Archives of Ireland (http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/), but before you start searching the census for your ancestor try to determine what you know about them, in order to set your search criteria...

      Do you know the name of the person you are searching for?  
      Try to establish all of the different variants under which their name might be recorded. For example, Catherine Byrne could appear in the census as Kate, Katie, Kathleen or Katherine and Byrne might be recorded as Beirne, Burns or Byrnes.  

      Use wildcards
      The search engine for the Irish census returns on the National Archives site requires an exact spelling and will not show variants of names.  For this reason I will often search using wildcards.  By searching for K*t* or C*t* B*rn* I should be able to see all possible variants of that name.  Don’t underestimate the ability of your ancestors to use unusual spellings for first names.

      Try swapping the forename and surname
      The census was transcribed exactly as it appears on the original return.  In some small cases, the head of household put the family surname in the first name field and the first names in the surname field.  This means that the only way to find some families is to search for Byrne Catherine, rather than Catherine Byrne.

      Check for initials
      Inmates of workhouses, prisons and institutions as well as police constables in barracks, only appear in the census under their initials.  If Catherine Byrne was in the workhouse on the night of the census, she would appear as C. or K. B.  While you may find several entries for a C.B. in workhouse and institutional returns, other identifying information recorded on the census should help you to narrow down the field of your search.  For example, are you looking for a C.B. who was a female, unmarried, age about 27, who was born in Carlow or a 68 year old widower who was born in Dublin?  If Catherine had infant children with her in the workhouse, they may appear in the same return.  Infants stayed with their mother, so should be enumerated just under her entry. 

      You might confirm the correct return if you find C.B. with a male infant J.B. (James Byrne).

      It should be noted that policemen who were in the barracks on the night of the census and who were recorded by their initials only, listed their occupation not as constable, but the occupation they held at the time of their recruitment.  Don’t dismiss a ‘farmer’ listed by his initials in a police barracks, he was most likely a constable who was a farmer prior to his recruitment.  

      Image repeats info from previous paragraph with lego policeman

      Bear in mind that ages given on census returns were not always accurate.  As ages given in other sources may not be accurate either, it is always sensible to keep your search broad to start with.  For example, the age recorded on a death certificate, particularly for someone who has died in advanced old age, may not be correct. The age was usually given by the informant and not the deceased and may be incorrect.  The true age of the deceased individual may not have been known by their spouse or children. Ages given on the actual census return were usually given by the head of household, who may not have known his wife’s true age and thus given an incorrect age on the return.  A man with a wife who was older than him, may have reduced her age to bring in into line with or below his own.  The introduction of the old age pension between the 1901 and 1911 census encouraged older household members to advance their age to bring them closer to qualifying for the pension.  The reason behind this is that when the pension was introduced, older members of the population born prior to 1864 when civil registration was introduced, could not provide a birth certificate as proof of age.  Instead, they could request a search of the earlier census returns that would confirm their age in 1841 or 1851, thus meeting the age qualification for the pension.
      While age is an important factor in identifying the correct census returns for your ancestor, do not rely on your ancestor giving the correct age on their census return.

      Do you know your ancestor’s occupation?
      Occupations were usually recorded on birth, marriage and death certificates. If your ancestor was a cabinet maker, teacher or nurse, you can use the ‘advance search’ section to search for all Byrnes who were teachers. However, it is important to bear in mind how that occupation might have been described. A teacher may have been described as a N.S. Teacher (National School Teacher) or a policeman may have been described as a policeman, constable or RIC. In some cases a person’s occupation may have changed, even between the 1901 and 1911 census, a labourer in one instance, may have gained employment as a cooper by the time of the next census. Usually, anyone who is described as a pensioner has retired from service with the constabulary, army or navy.

      Do you know your ancestor’s religion?
      The 1901 and 1911 census of Ireland recorded the religious denomination of the population.  You might be looking for a Byrne family who were Church of Ireland rather than Roman Catholic and searching by religious denomination can help to narrow the field.  If you are unsure of the religion of your ancestors, the census can be used to determine the religion of families with the same name.  For example, searching for a particular surname in Co. Fermanagh might reveal that in nearly all instances persons with that name were Roman Catholic, when the assumption was that they were Church of Ireland.  Determining the religious denomination of your ancestors in Ireland using the census will allow you to focus your research on specific church records.

      Do you know when your ancestor was born and the age they might have been at the time of the census?
      The search engine on the National Archives of Ireland website will list all entries with an age range five years either side of the age given in the search form.  It is possible, once the results have been listed, to click on ‘Age’ and have the results listed in descending order from the youngest to the oldest, making it easier to focus on a specific age range.

      Mine the records
      I have already mentioned that Irish genealogists mine the census for every scrap of available information.  When searching the census online, do not just make a note of the name, age and religion of the individuals, which is what you will see in your initial results.  Click on the box: ‘show all information’.  This will reveal the birthplace, occupation, literacy, marital status and language of the inhabitants as well as their relationship with the head of the household.  The 1911 census also recorded the length of time a couple had been married, the number of children born to their marriage and the number of children alive in 1911.

      The 1911 census return for Catherine Byrne at Baldonnell revealed that she was born in Dublin city ca. 1866.  The presence of her brother, Peter Beatty, establishes her maiden name.  She had been married for 25 years, indicating that she married ca. 1886 and she had given birth to 4 children, all of whom were living in 1911 but only three were living at home.  It is now possible to search for the marriage of a Catherine Beatty to a Patrick Byrne, farmer, ca. 1886, most likely in a Roman Catholic parish in Dublin city, where Catherine was born.


      Below the transcribed information for each family, you will see links to ‘view census images’.  Always view the original household return to make sure that the transcribed information is correct.  In many instances it is not.  The other images associated with the census can also be mined for information, particularly the House and Building Return (Form B1).  This return will give you a description of the house your family occupied.  The return will tell you how many rooms they occupied in the house, the materials from which the house was built and how many windows were at the front of the building as well as the number of out buildings or farm buildings on the property (which are described in more detail on the Out-Offices and Farm-Steadings Return Form B2).  The House and Building Return will also give you a picture of all the households in a townland or on the same street and on occasion identify the landlord of the property.  It is not uncommon, when inspecting the House and Building Return, to notice a cluster of families with the same surname listed one after the other.  Are these families all related?  Are they brothers or cousins who built their own houses on a single family plot?  Is the widow living next door the mother of your ancestor, in her own house, on the same family plot?

      Browse the census
      If you know the address of your ancestor you can get an overview of the entire townland by browsing rather than searching the census.  However, in order to browse you will need to know the District Electoral Division (DED) in which your townland is located.  A shortcut to identifying the DED and the returns for a specific townland can be found on John Grenham’s website www.johngrenham.com.  Search the Places section for your townland.  When identified, and you open the page for the parish in which that townland is located, click on the 1901 or 1911 link.  You will be brought to the census website, to the page relating to the DED in which your townland is located.  You can then click on your townland and see the surnames of each household in the townland with a link to each household return.    This route is helpful when you have failed to find your family even when you know their address.  I have often looked at all of the occupiers of a townland and discovered that the family I was searching for were incorrectly recorded as O’Rogan, when I had been searching for Regans.

      The 1901 and 1911 census of Ireland are springboards for most family history researchers.  Finding your family in the census should tell you where and when they were born, when they married, the number of children of their marriage, their occupation, ability to read and write and religion, as well as the type of house they lived in and whether their neighbours might have been siblings or cousins.  All of this information is freely available at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/.

      On the same site you will also have the option to search the fragments that survive from the 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 census.  Browsing this record set will demonstrate how little actually survives, but if you have family from Cavan you may find surviving 1821 returns, which can be searched by parish and townland as well as by surname.

      One other remnant of the 19th century census returns that have been published online by the National Archives of Ireland are the census search forms.  These are the forms used by applicants for the old age pension requesting a search of the 1841 and 1851 census for evidence of age.  The forms include the name and current address of the applicant and usually their parents’ names and the name of the townland they were residing in at the time of the 1841 or 1851 census.  Notes on the form can include the names and ages of other siblings of the applicant.  These forms can be searched at http://censussearchforms.nationalarchives.ie/search/cs/home.jsp.

      The most important thing to remember when searching both of these sites is that the spelling of surnames, first names and townlands is as they appear on the original return or as they have been interpreted by the transcriber.  If you cannot find what you are looking for try using wild cards or browsing the census instead.  Only a very small number of returns are actually missing from the online collection.  The best way to determine whether a return is missing is to compare the townland returns for the 1901 and 1911 census.  For example, a street in Clonmel recorded 27 houses in 1911, but the same street in 1901 does not appear.  This return is missing but the microfilm copies can still be consulted in the National Archives of Ireland and it is still possible to make a case to view the originals if you can demonstrate their absence from the microfilm and online collections.

      One last tip... try subscription sites
      Both Findmypast.ie and Ancestry.co.uk have indexed the 1901 and 1911 census of Ireland.  The most useful search tool that these sites have to offer is that you can search for more than one member of a particular household.  This is helpful if you are looking for someone with a common name, but also know the name of their parents, spouse or children.

      The 1901 and 1911 census of Ireland returns are effectively the only census returns that we have.  They are a treasure trove of information and the starting point for researching your family back into the 19th century.


      Nicola Morris M.A.G.I is a professional genealogist and member of Accredited Genealogists Ireland. She is the director of Timeline Research Ltd, one of Ireland’s leading genealogical research companies. Nicola has undertaken the Irish research for WDYTYA? in the UK and US and has appeared in numerous episodes. She was also the presenter of the first series of the Genealogy Roadshow broadcast in Ireland in 2011.

      The penultimate instalment due next week, will explore the records that act as substitutes for the missing censuses.