Census returns

This guide was last updated in 2009

The census returns provide real insight into the living conditions in the Dublin slums. 

The building return (Form B1) records how many families were residing in a house and how many rooms each family occupied. While the house itself may be recorded as a first class residence with 9 rooms, the fact that it is occupied by 8 families will tell you that it was a tenement and probably in very poor condition. 

Recently indexed by the National Archives of Ireland and available here, the 1911 census is the most accessible. It is free to search and view the census returns, but it is important to note that the search facility will only locate the exact spellings of names and surnames as they were spelled on the return, so always use every possible variation of a surname in your search.

The 1911 census records the number of children born to a couple and the number of children still living. This can offer a chilling insight into the child mortality rate in Dublin city at the time.

The 1901 census has not been indexed and it is necessary to search the returns by address. This is where your previous research will be useful. If the family are not at the given address it is worth searching the surrounding streets and even the entire ward, for evidence of them.

Although this can be time consuming the information, when found, is invaluable. During the course of his research, Chris Moyles discovered that Hannah Nelson was living with her grandmother but that her siblings were living with extended family in adjacent tenements.

Throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century, Irishmen and women came to Dublin in search of work.  Their 1901 or 1911 census returns should state their county of birth.  This is a vital step to finding earlier generations of their family.


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