Finding your family in Ireland: The 1659 Irish census

Beginning Your Irish Family History Search | Part 6 of a 10 part series

From the Irish Roots Cafe and www.Irishroots.com (see also podcast 128 on IrishCentral)

The 1659 'Census' A Genealogy Research Aid

I have compiled several indexes over the last 30 years. Today we look at the 1659 census of Ireland. It is important as a quick location finder for Irish families
in the 17th century.

It is also lets us look at how differently your name was spelled in that era. This is a useful research tool on several accounts. It can tell you if your family was
centered in a certain county at that time, or if it was spread over several counties.

Even if you have not found your family location in Ireland yet - you can start to research where your family name was found, by looking for your surname. This can come in handy later on in your research.

I have included all of the surnames and county locations from the 1659 census in our index of family names and spellings in this book: http://www.irishroots.com/id4918.htm

Mostly Surnames

Please note that most names given in this census are last names only, without the first name. That should not keep you from making an educated guess at the location of your family in this era. Particularly useful for less numerous Irish names, narrowing down the locations for your name can save many hours of research.

What it is

The special report on the 1659 census is the list of all of the original surnames and county locations found in the 'census' of 1659. It also includes all the names found in the Poll Money Ordnance papers of 1660-1661. The original documents hold more information.

The census also enumerates the number of (new?) Scotch and English settlers in Ireland. The 'Scotch' are found widespread in Ulster, with the exception of Co. Monaghan & most of Co. Antrim, where only the barony of Glenarm shows Scots
settlement. It is one of the most commonly consulted documents here at the Irish Roots Cafe.

'Scotch, Irish, and English'

The designation as Scotch or English is vague. It may refer to those who use 'the' language, or it may refer to those who have recently settled in Ireland, earlier settlers now being thought of as Irish. Scots settlement is also shown in Agha parish, barony of Lower Ormond in Tipperary and in the barony of Granard in Longford. Only Coolavin barony in Co. Sligo gives no English settlers.

This census gives no Scotch settlers in the provinces of Munster & Connaught, where the Irish outnumbered the English by a 10 to one ratio.

In Ulster the ratio is 1 1/2 Irishmen to every 1 Englishman/Scotsman. In Leinster it was 5 1/2 Irishmen to 1 Englishman/Scotsman. Hardinge estimated the overall ratio was 5 to 1, but figures suggest it may have been 7 Irish to 1 settler total.

Discovery of this Census

W. H. Hardinge announced discovery of the '1659' census in 1864. He believed it was compiled in 1654-1659, by Petty, during his well known survey. (The 'civil survey' precedes this survey by a few years.) It may have been a preliminary survey for a better work to follow, and it may have been used to help satisfy transplantation complaints of new citizens being 'settled' here. Thus we have the emphasis on English, Scotch, Irish and the (Pn) principal surname of Irish families in each area.

Population Count

Hardinge gave the estimated population of Ireland at some 500,000 based upon this census. (Thom's Almanac gave an unsure figure of 1,320,000).

Missing Areas

It is incomplete, for we have no surviving returns for Cavan, Galway, Mayo, Tyrone, Wicklow and nonefor 4 baronies in Cork and 9 baronies in Meath. Some books list the 1659 census as available for all counties. This is obviously not true. I discovered this when putting together the Irish Families Project, which is the 34 book set on Irish genealogy completed last year! This set is given here, and covers all Irish counties:
http://www.irishroots.com/content/view/18/133/

17th Century Spelling

Please note that spellings were often different in the 17th century. This is true for both family names and place names in Ireland. Consult the 'The Book of Irish Families great and small' for examples and note that Mac, Mc, Fitz and O' may appear before your name in 1659 even though it does not today. This concept is familiar to all experienced family researchers today.

Coming Up: Lessons from the Irish Hedge Row our 6th broadcast series!


(Based upon new podcast series in production from the Irish Roots Cafe) © 2009 Michael C. O’Laughlin, www.Irishroots.com, IGF

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