Irish family history: what to use instead of census

Findmypast is working in partnership with IrishCentral to share fascinating insights into your Irish ancestors. Click here to get a special half price subscription, and discover your Irish roots today!

One of the main reasons Irish family history research can be challenging is the lack of census records for the country. Unlike in America or Britain, full census returns for Ireland in the 19th century simply do not survive. They were either pulped during paper shortages or destroyed in the fire at the Public Records Office of Ireland in 1922. That’s why you need to get a little creative with the sources you use to trace your Irish ancestors. We’ve put together a list of some of the best records to use to fill the census void:


1. Griffith’s Valuation

Probably the most well-known, widely used and important land record for 19th century Ireland, Griffith’s lists nearly 3 million names and covers all 32 counties of Ireland from 1847-1864. If you can locate your family on Griffith’s you’ll find out exactly where they were living and the type of property they owned or rented.


2. Landed Estates Court Rentals

Much like Griffiths Valuation, the LECR records are detailed land records from mid-nineteenth century Ireland but they are much less used or cited. They certainly shouldn’t be ignored however – the records list over half a million tenants on over 8,000 estates across Ireland 1850-1885. You’ll find this fascinating collection exclusively on Findmypast.


3. Census Search Forms

When the old age pension was introduced in Ireland in 1909, officials needed a way of verifying applicants were over the age criteria of 70. For this, they consulted the 1841 and 1851 census returns (which still survived in full at the time). The results are the very detailed census search forms where you’ll find out your ancestors’ address, parents’ names and any other information they listed on the 1841 or 51 censuses.



4. Directories

Almanacs, street and trade directories are fantastic resources for discovering your Irish roots. Like censuses, you’ll find out where your ancestor was living and in many cases their occupation. Unlike censuses, early directories survive right back into the early 19th century making them perfect substitutes for finding your Irish family.


5. Court Records

Court records are an extremely detailed and largely untapped treasure trove for anyone tracing their Irish ancestors. On Findmypast, you’ll find the Petty Session Court Records which date back all the way back to the 1820s. Not only will you be able to find out where your ancestor lived and their next of kin in these registers, but they’ll also add colour to your family tree by telling what they did to end up in front of a Magistrate!

These are just some of the examples that are perfect substitutes for Irish census records. Irish family history researchers the world over rue the destruction of Ireland’s 19th century census records but this proves that all is far from lost.

For more stories on tracing your Irish heritage from Findmypast click here.