Census returns

This guide was last updated in 2009

Irish census returns were compiled at ten-yearly intervals from 1821. However most early returns were destroyed and the only surviving and complete returns are for 1901 and 1911.

If your ancestor was in Ireland during this period, the information they contain is invaluable.

Census returns record details of family members, lodgers, servants and visitors, together with their age, county of birth, marital status, occupation, religious denomination, literacy level, and the ability to speak English or Irish. Disabilities were also recorded.

The 1911 returns required married women to record the number of years they had been married, the number of live births they had, and number of children still alive in 1911.

The National Archives of Ireland (National Archives) has digitised the 1911 census returns. Not all counties are available online yet but it is a brilliant resource and, best of all, it's entirely free of charge.

County libraries throughout Ireland also hold copies of local returns on microfilm.

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