The National Archives of Ireland, in tandem with a research partnership from Library and Archives Canada, digitized and indexed the 1901 and 1911 Irish census records (The Canadians had already digitized three years of their own records and are an authority on the process).
These records include the handwritten forms (called Form A) filled out by people from the tiniest townland of the smallest village to the individual streets of bigger towns and cities.
Information compiled by the head of each household in Form A includes: name, age, sex, relationship to head of the household, religion, occupation, marital status and county or country of birth.
Can you speak Gaelic?
The household head would also indicate if they were literate and it they were able to speak Gaelic. This information was gathered by a person called an enumerator, whose job it was to summarize and collate all of this data.
In cases where the household head could not write, they would mark an "x" on the form and the enumerator would fill out the form fields.
One difference between the 1901 and 1911 Irish census Form A was the addition of a field asking the wife in the house to state how many years she was married, the number of children she had and the number that were still alive.
The 1911 Irish census also contains extensive institutional data, from police record to hospital information, asylum data to college and boarding school archives.
Boon for Irish diaspora
For the Irish diaspora all around the world, the information contained in this online archive can lead them to the Holy Grail of finding out who their ancestors were, and in essence who they are today.
In far less romantic terms, anyone from the archived counties can check out if their great-great-grandfather was a raving lunatic or if anyone in the family had a run in with the law!
Such a tool is invaluable for people who want to connect to their Irish heritage and who, for one reason or another, are unable to travel to the Emerald Isle
It’s our past at our fingertips.
Plans are afoot to add more counites in July and August.
By the middle of next month, Limerick, Mayo, Waterford, Armagh, Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Fermanagh, Kildare, Kilkenny and Leitrim should be available online, and it is hoped that by the end of August, Derry, Longford, Louth, Meath, Monaghan, Laois, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Tyrone, Westmeath and Wicklow will go live.
To find out if your family history is a click away, visit www.census.nationalarchives.ie.
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org