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Census Returns
Civil Records
Church Records
Land Records 
Estate Records 

Census Records

The 1901 Census returns record the following:-

Relationship to the head of the household
Marital Status
County of Birth
Ability to speak English or Irish

Members of the family not present when the census was taken, are not given. The same information was collected in 1911, with one important addition: married women were required to state the number of years they had been married, the number of children born alive, and the number of children still living. Unfortunately,widows were not required to give this information, although a good number obliged in any case. Only the initials, not the full names, of policemen and inmates of mental hospitals are recorded.

The most useful information given is age, though this is often inaccurate, particularly for 1901. Nonetheless, the returns provide a rough guide to age which can help to narrow the range of years to be searched in earlier civil records of births, marriages and deaths, or in parish records.

When the names of all or most of the family are known, along with the general area, but not the precise locality, it is possible to search all of the returns for that area to identify the relevant family, and thus pinpoint them. This can be particularly useful when the surname is very common; the likelihood of two families of Murphys in the same area repeating all of the children's names is slight.

At times, again when a name is common, it is impossible to be sure from information uncovered in civil or parish records if a particular family is the relevant one. In such cases, when details of the subsequent history of the family are known, dates of death or emigration, or siblings' names, for instance, a check of the 1901 or 1911 census for the family can provide useful circumstantial evidence.

The requirement in the 1911 census for married women to supply the number of years of marriage is obviously a very useful aid when searching subsequent civil records for a marriage entry. Even in 1901, the age of the eldest child recorded can give a rough guide to the latest date at which a marriage is likely to have taken place.

Children recorded in 1901 and 1911 are the parents or grandparents of people now alive. The ages, generally much more accurate than those given for older members of the family, can be useful in trying to uncover later marriages in civil records. When used together with Valuation Office records, or the voters lists of the National Archives, they can provide an accurate picture of the passing of property from one generation to another. Luckily, the Irish attitude to land means that it is quite unusual for rural property to pass out of a family altogether.

Civil Records[ Top ]

The most comprehensive source of genealogical data is the civil birth, death and marriage records. State registration began in 1845 when all non-Catholic marriages were required to be registered with the civil authorities. However registration of births, deaths and Catholic marriages did not begin until 1864. This may seem relatively late compared to civil records in teh US or Australia but one should remember that death records will relate to people born much earlier in the nineteenth century. The records contain the following information-

Birth Records:
Date & Place of Birth; Name; Sex; Name, Surname & Address of Father; Name & Maiden Name of Mother; Father's Occupation; Signature & Residence of Informant; Date of Registration; Registrar.

Marriage records:
Date of Marriage; Name & Surname of Bride & Groom; Ages; Marital Status; Occupations; Residences; Fathers' Names & Occupations; Clergyman; Witnesses; Church.

Death Records:
Date & Place of Death; Name; Sex; Marital Status; Age; Occupation; Cause of Death; Duration of Illness/Confinement; Informant; Date of Registration.

Church Records[ Top ]

Church records are central to any genealogical research in Ireland due to the lack of state records. As a general rule the church records for the west of Ireland are not as extensive as those for the east and it is also true to say that those for urban areas are superior to the records from rural parishes. It is also fair to say that in many cases the records of the Protestant churches stretch back earlier than those of many Catholic parishes.

For any ancestor born before 1864 the only record of birth will be a baptism record and the likelihood of locating a record is wholly dependent on which parish he/she came from. In some cases church records, particularly from urban areas, begin as early as the 1600s while for much of the west of Ireland there are very few church records from before 1850.

Land Records[ Top ]

There are two sets of land records which are central to nineteenth century research, namely Griffith's Primary Valuation, 1848-1854 and the Tithe Applotment, 1823-1837.The importance of Griffith's Primary Valuation is due to the lack of any comprehensive census for mid-nineteenth century Ireland. The Valuation was a survey of all property occupied in the country and was taken between 1848 and 1864. each holding was required to be valued in order to calculate the rate payable by thoseowning or renting property. Though by no means a complete record of householders, the Valuation does include the vast bulk of households and details the following information:

Townland/Street Name; OS Map #; Name of Occupier(Head of Household); Name of Immediate Lessor(Landlord); Description of Property; Area of Property; Rateable Annual Value of Land & Buildings; Total Valuation.

Tithes were taxes payable for the upkeep of the Established (Protestant)Church in Ireland. Though the majority of the population was Catholic, tithes were payable by all and were deeply resented by all non-Protestants. This resentment led to a tithe war during the 1830s which was finally resolved in 1838 with a 25% reduaction and the appointment of 2 commissioners to each parish to determine the tithe payable based on the average price in the parish of wheat and oats during the previous 7 years. These commissioners drew up lists of those liable to tithes which have survived and are a valuable source of data from the 1820s and 1830s. Most Tithe Applotment books include:

Tenant's name; Townland; Area of Property; Valuation of Property; Tithe Payable.

Wills & Administrations[ Top ]

Wills and Administrations contain valuable information on the relationships between family members, residences, occupations and circumstances. Unfortunately the bulk of pre-1858 will documents perished in 1922 though in many cases the indexes survive.

Graveyard Records[ Top ]

Another valuable and ever-expanding source is the transcribed graveyard records being produced around the country. Headstones often include a number of generations of one or more families and though many families could not afford memorials untils the mid to late nineteenth century they are nonetheless a very important resource.

Estate Records[ Top ]

Given that most of the country was owned by landed gentry for well over two centuries to the late nineteenth/early twentieth century one would expect to find the majority of estate records extant. Typically estate records contain rent ledgers, account books, wills, marriage settlements, correspondence, lease agreements, etc. Unfortunately most of these records have not survived - it has been estimated that as few as 3% of estate records have survived - but if one is lucky enough to find relevant estate records they can be especially useful when trying to locate labourers/tenent farmers.