Centenary of 1901 Census of Ireland

Special Feature

by

Michael H. Carroll

 

Introduction

On Saturday, 31st March, 2001 a major milestone in Irish genealogical research was celebrated. It was the 100th anniversary of the date on which the 1901 Census of Ireland was conducted.

One hundred years may not seem a long time but due to a number of factors the 1901 Census of Ireland is extremely important in family history research in Ireland. The main reasons why 1901 is critical are :

What Was Recorded?

As stated previously, manuscript returns for each household survive for all 32 counties on the island of Ireland for 1901 ( and 1911 ). These returns are arranged by townland or, in urban areas, by street. Each townland or street was grouped with a number of townlands or streets into District Electoral Divisions ( DEDs ) for reporting purposes. These equate to wards or other administrative areas created for electoral voting reasons. The returns for each townland or street consist of :

Forms ( Form A ) filled in by the head of each household, giving the names of all persons in that household on census night. Information that was requested is outlined below.

Forms ( N, B1, B2 ) filled in by the official taking the census, summarising the returns for that townland or street. These enumerators were mostly police constables with the Royal Irish Constabulary ( RIC ), especially in rural areas.

The categories of data completed by the head of household on Form A were as follows :

Given Name
Surname
Religion
Education
Age
Sex
Occupation
Marital Status
Where Born
Languages Spoken
Whether Deaf, Dumb or Blind

To examine the returns for a particular townland or street, then the DED must first be established. There is a Townland Index for 1901 which lists the DED number for each townland ( there is a Street Index for major urban areas such as Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Kingstown [ Dun Laoghaire ] and Limerick ).

On This Site

On this web site, www.lalley.com, the entire 1901 census returns for the civil parish of Cargin, Co. Galway are listed. The civil parish was an old land administration measure used up until the late 19th century but its townlands since then have been subsumed into two distinct DEDs - Killursa and Headford, Co. Galway. It is our intention to record every single household for these two DEDs and make them available online by summer 2001. While examining individual returns is a rewarding experience, especially if one can find a family connection, looking at the 'bigger picture' gives a sense of the huge demographic changes that beset Ireland in the latter half of the 19th century.

Looking at two elements of the townlands in the civil parish of Cargin - namely number of homes and the population in those homes - for the census taken in 1841, 1851, and 1901 - then we can see plainly the drain famine and emigration had on the rural Co. Galway countryside south-west of Headford town. Most who emigrated from here went to the United States and many of those went to Wilmington, DE. From the famine ravaged years of the 1840s to the era of great steamships in the early 20th century, wave after wave, generation after generation left the shores of Lough Corrib to follow their aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbours and friends to a new life on a new shore in the New World. Figure 1 below outlines the details of the Cargin townlands across those 60 years. These figures represent a small section of the west of Ireland during that period - results repeated time and time again in other DEDs also. Cargin alone lost two thirds of its population and over half its homes.

1841

1851

1901

Townland

DED

Houses

Pop.

Houses

Pop.

Houses

Pop.

Ballyconlought

Killursa

44

280

30

193

20

113

Ballyhale

Killursa

42

273

39

239

30

120

Ballynacregga

Killursa

14

106

9

58

7

33

Ballynakillew

Headford

2

13

6

23

0

0

Ballynalacka

Killursa

5

24

7

36

2

18

Balrickard

Headford

4

19

4

13

2

9

Cahergal

Headford

40

233

34

183

4

31

Cargin

Killursa

4

34

5

33

3

11

Clydagh

Killursa

9

77

5

48

6

31

Cuilleen

Headford

19

128

11

77

7

50

Farrangavangh

Killursa

2

10

1

6

1

5

Kilbeg

Killursa

3

28

5

36

4

24

Kilmurry

Headford

1

6

1

2

1

8

Luggawannia

Killursa

18

138

9

69

8

45

Totals

 

207

1369

166

1016

95

498

Decrease from 1841

 

-

-

20%

26%

54%

64%

Figure 1 : Civil Parish of Cargin, Co. Galway in 1841, 1851 and 1901

 

There were a total of 3,221,823 people on the island of Ireland as recorded in the 1901 census - 1,610,085 were males, 1,611,738 females.

This compares with the pre-famine 1841 census of 8,175,124 people!

In 1996, the population of the Irish Republic was 3,626,087 - it had dipped below 2.95 million in 1946 before a long slow recovery. The 2001 census should tell an interesting story as net immigration has been a feature of modern Ireland, with its booming economy, since 1996. However, it has just been announced that due to the threat of Foot and Mouth disease, the 2001 census will not now take place until 2002! This will cause confusion for our descendants when they look back one hundred years from now.

So, on the occasion of the Centenary of the 1901 Census of Ireland, things certainly look a lot brighter for Ireland, population wise at least, than they did one hundred years ago.

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