Contributed by Ciarán Wallace
Like the release of the next generation X-Box for historians and genealogists, the 1901 Census on-line was launched at the National Archives of Ireland (NAI) on 3 June. The undoubted success of the 1911 Census project might make the 1901 launch seem less remarkable – but the availability of so much additional material greatly enhances the value of both sets of records. Both Catríona Crowe, Head of Special Projects at the NAI, and Mary Hanafin TD, Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, described how the 1901 data allows researchers to expand their findings from 1911. Despite some cautious jokes about the website crashing under the strain of launch-day traffic, this reviewer found it only marginally slower than the excellent 1911 Census version – as the numbers level off this will no doubt correct itself.
The addition of the ‘show all information’ function some months ago makes the 1901 and 1911 censuses even more useful as a research tool. Finding one Mary Byrne out of hundreds is far easier when you can see the occupation, religion and marital status entries at a glance. This function also allows researchers to pursue statistical enquires and small-group studies in moments, saving weeks of manual research. Social and economic historians can look forward to hours of fun.
The expanded site could be sold as ‘1911 Census – the previous generation’, but happily it is not being sold at all. The National Archives, and their partners Library and Archives Canada, have stuck to their principle that it should be free to the user. There is a commercial opportunity however, Minister Hanafin pointed to the potential for genealogy-tourism arising from the project. If the popularity of the 1911 version is any guide our ancestors have a bright future.
Image: detail from sample census form on the National Archives of Ireland website.
Ciarán Wallace recently completed his doctoral thesis on “Local Politics and Government in Dublin City & Suburbs: 1898-1914” at Trinity College Dublin. His research interests include urban history, civil society and the construction of national identity.