Ireland's 1926 census - the first conducted by the Irish Free State - isn't scheduled to be released until 2027, but demands are being made for an early release.

Probably the most popular single thing the National Archives of Ireland did in the last decade was to release online the Irish Censuses for 1901 and 1911, which can be viewed online here.

Read More: Irish birth, marriage and death certificates now available online for free

It was not only an invaluable tool in ancestry searches, but also a fun way to see what famous Irishmen from Michael Collins to James Joyce were up to in the early days of the 20th century.

Many, including this writer, thought that there was also a census conducted by the British in April 1921 and it was lost when the IRA burnt down the Custom House in May 1921. This is a canard. There was never a census conducted by the British in 1921 because of the War of Independence. The next Irish census was conducted by the new Free State government in 1926.

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According to the National Archives website, the British conducted, at ten-year intervals, censuses from 1831 to 1911: “The original census returns for 1861 and 1871 were destroyed shortly after the censuses were taken. Those for 1881 and 1891 were pulped during the First World War, probably because of the paper shortage. The returns for 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 were, apart from a few survivals, notably for a few counties for 1821 and 1831, destroyed in 1922 in the fire at the Public Record Office at the beginning of the Civil War.”

Since the establishment of the Irish State, censuses have been conducted in 1926, 1936, 1946, 1951, 1956, 1961, 1966, 1971, 1979, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2002 and 2006. The census of 1976 was canceled as an economy measure.

Petition for an Early Release

The census of 1926 is not scheduled to be released until 2027. This late release date is because the government wants to protect the privacy of anyone who may still be living and is included in the census. This has caused the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO) to petition the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, and the Heritage Minister, Joseph Madigan TD, for an early release.

Read More: How to pinpoint where your ancestors lived in Ireland

According to CIGO, “Under the provisions of the Statistics Act 1993, the National Archives of Ireland is currently preparing to release this material in January 2027. As the first census undertaken by the newly established Free State, it represents a snapshot of Ireland at the end of a very turbulent decade in its history. The population collectively bore the scars of the Great War, Easter Rising, War of Independence and the Civil War. And all this was followed by significant migration post partition.”

CIGO has organized a write-in campaign on its website where people can sign a petition urging the early release of the census.

CIGO notes that there is a precedent for the early releases of a census: “The release of the 1939 National Register for England & Wales by the UK National Archives in 2015…was a success because, on a rolling basis, data for anyone born less than a century before was redacted.”

*Originally published in 2018


Dermot McEvoy is the author of The 13th Apostle: A Novel of Michael Collins and the Irish Uprising and Our Lady of Greenwich Village, both now available in paperback, Kindle, and audio from Skyhorse Publishing. He may be reached at Follow him at Follow The 13th Apostle on Facebook.

Would you be interested to see the 1926 Irish census? Do you think it should be released early? Share your thoughts in the comment section.