Censuses of 1871 and earlier
Old census returns are valuable historical and genealogical records. Unfortunately, the returns for 1813, 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 censuses were destroyed when the Public Records Office in the Four Courts was burned in 1922.
The 1861 and 1871 census returns were deliberately destroyed as authorised by the Irish Government to protect confidentiality and to ensure that "returns should not be used for the gratification of curiosity". The Irish Government had first ascertained that householder's returns from the Census of Great Britain were destroyed. However in England and Wales the data had been transcribed into census enumerators' books for future preservation, before the original household returns for those countries were destroyed. Unfortunately, no such policy had been followed in Ireland.
Staff at the Public Record Office of Ireland petitioned for the retention of the 1881 and 1891 census returns however they were pulped in 1918 possibly because of paper shortages during the First World War.
1901 and 1911 Censuses
Of the pre-Independence censuses only the 1901 and 1911 census returns remain intact today.
The 1901 and 1911 censuses were taken under legislation which made no provision for the confidentiality of the information recorded on them. These were made available as public records in 1961 via a warrant made by the Minister for Justice under the Public Records (Ireland) Act, 1867. They are in the custody of the National Archives and have been their most frequently used records mainly for genealogical research. In recent years the National Archives undertook the digitisation of the 1901 and 1911 returns in order to make them available on-line. All 32 Counties for 1911 are freely available on their website.
For further information visit the National Archives site: www.nationalarchives.ie/censusrtns.html
The Statistics Act, 1993 allows the returns for Censuses of 1926 and later years to be made available as public records 100 years after the relevant census.
This means that the 1926 census records will be open to the public by the National Archives in the year 2026.