census Ireland

When we start tracing back on our Irish ancestors, the first place to start looking for some clues are the 1911 and 1901 census returns in Ireland.  If we start with our parents, then grandparents, we should be able to find one of the generations on the 1911 census returns.   The 1911 census return is interesting because it records the  number of years of marriage, also the number of children born, and the number of children who survived.   However, this information is not always accurate and when searching for the marriage, based on the census return, you should always add/minus 2-3 years.

By stating the number of children born to the marriage, it can be useful in finding which children died at birth or at a young age, by checking the names on the 1901 census against those listed on the 1911 census.  You also have to allow for those children who may have been old enough to marry before 1911.

The other factor that has to be taken into account is that due to illiteracy a lot of the ages recorded on the census returns can be inaccurate.  This means that you need to search for a birth maybe 3-5 years before and after the year stated.

Places of birth can also vary between 1901 and 1911 census returns – the head of house may state in 1901 that he was born in Cork, but by 1911 he states he was born in Dublin city.  This can cause confusion when searching for his birthplace.  Sometimes people moved from their home in the country to Dublin, in search of work bringing their children with them, so they may be recorded in 1901 in Cork, but by 1911 they are now living in Dublin.

Unfortunately, there are only fragments of earlier census returns for Ireland – 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851, so we have to use other sources as ‘census substitutes’ like Tithe Applotment Books, Griffiths Valuation, Street directories etc., all of which can assist in tracing your ancestors’ movements – albeit only the head of household is recorded on these documents.

Once you consider all the potential inaccuracies contained in the census returns, and take them into account when conducting your research, then you should be able to find more records for their marriage and births of their children, and in turn go back another generation.

Happy ancestor hunting!  For more information and tips, or if you need to commission us to undertake the research for you, contact or email us at