USING THE 1911 CENSUS OF IRELAND
Note: if you click any of the links in this guide the page will open in a new browser window or tab so that you don't lose your place in this document
All of the 19th century Irish censuses have been lost or destroyed, other than a few fragments from the 1821-51 censuses which became available online recently (follow this link for more details). The only two 20th century censuses to have been released so far are 1901 and 1911, and we use the 1911 Census at LostCousins because it was the first complete census to be made available online.
This census has been photographed, transcribed, and indexed in a joint project between the National Archives of Ireland and its Canadian counter-part - you can search the census and view the original census schedules for all 32 counties completely free of charge at http://www.census.nationalarchives.ie/
There are nearly 5 million inhabitants recorded in the census, so unless you're looking for someone with a very rare name you'll need to know a little more about them, or their family. Fortunately, because 1911 is less than a century ago, there's a good chance that you'll know when at least some of your Irish relatives were born, and roughly where they may have been living in 1911.
Many Irish surnames begin with O' (for example, O'Rourke) but they won't all be recorded this way in the census. For this reason I'd recommend that you don't tick the 'Exact matches only' box on the search form, since you'd like to see all the results that match - whether the surname was written down as O'Rourke, ORourke, or O Rourke.
Enter an age if you can - the Search automatically allows a 5 year band on either side, so it doesn't matter if you're a year or two out. If you know the county where your relative was living then that's bonus - but remember that people did sometimes travel to find work. Should you know the precise address then you can make use of this information to search by location - but do read the Help information first.
When you search the closest matches will normally be displayed first, as in the example below (matches where the surname has been transcribed as O Rourke or O'Rourke are further down the list):
If you think you've spotted your relative, or somebody who could be your relative, click their name to display a list of the other members of the household, so that you can verify that it is the right family:
Note the section headed View census images: this has links to the original census schedules. Private households were issued with a Household Return (Form A), but there were also other forms for institutions such as boarding schools, workhouses, barracks, and hospitals - this include Form E, Form G etc.
In the example John O'Rourke was living in a private household at the time of the census, so his father completed the Form A he was given by the enumerator:
When you find a census form that lists your relatives you'll no doubt want to save it on your computer hard drive - and print a copy too. Because the files are Adobe PDF files you can't use the normal browser commands to save or print them: instead click the Save and Print buttons (see below - you'll find them near the top left of the browser window):
If you're planning to enter your relatives on your My Ancestors page at the LostCousins site so that you can search for your living relatives you'll also need to note down the unique number that identifies this page of the census. (And if you're not planning to enter them at LostCousins, why not? Living relatives who share your ancestors and your interest in family history can be very useful contacts!)
Please note that although there is a number handwritten in the top right-hand corner of the form, it isn't sufficient to uniquely identify this schedule - there will be tens of thousands of pages with the same number. However, if you look at the command line of your browser you will see a reference that IS unique - and it's easy to identify because it begins with the letters 'nai', for example:
If you click the link above you'll see the census schedule for the O'Rourke family. Here's how the link might appear on your screen (this example is using Internet Explorer 8 running on a Windows 7 computer - it may look a little different on your computer):
Note: these instructions assume that your browser retains its default settings. If you have configured your browser to open PDF files in Adobe Reader, or to download them, then the simplest way to find the reference is to right-click on the link, copy the link address, and paste it into a Notepad or Word so that you can extract the number.
Entering your Irish relatives on your My Ancestors page at LostCousins
First log-in to your LostCousins account. If you can't remember your password you can get a reminder by clicking Password reminder at the top left of the menu and entering your email address; if you don't have a LostCousins account then click Register to open one - it's free.
At the top of your My Ancestors page you'll see Add new entry. When you click the entry form is displayed - select the Ireland 1911 from the dropdown list of censuses, for example:
The form changes according to the census you select, so it's important that you choose the appropriate census before starting to enter data. Here's an example showing the entry for Francis O'Rourke, the head of the family:
I've typed capital letters at the beginning of each name, but this isn't actually necessary when you're entering names in the main part of the form, as initial letters are automatically capitalised. You'll also see that I've corrected the errors made by the transcriber, who misread Francis as Francies, and transcribed O'Rourke as ORourke - in other words I've entered what the enumerator wrote, rather than what the transcriber thought he had written.
Note: normally at LostCousins you would enter precisely what the transcriber typed even when it is wrong, but the Ireland 1911 census and the England & Wales 1841 census are exceptions to this rule (there are good reasons for this difference, but now isn't the best time to go into them!)
However, whilst the enumerator may also have made mistakes, on this first part of the form you should never include information that isn't on the handwritten census, even when an error omission is obvious. Nevertheless provision has been made should you wish to input additional information and corrections.
At the bottom of the form there's a button labelled MORE. Click this button to display an optional section of the form where you can enter information that doesn't appear on the census, but which you know from other sources. For example, you might know the maiden name of a married woman, or that John O'Rourke was baptised with the middle name 'Henry':
Information that you enter in this optional section of the form won't be utilised in the automated matching process (when we are searching for your cousins), and to make this clear, if it is shown on your My Ancestors page it will be shown in italics, for example:
It's worth explaining at this point what the two icons in this screenshot mean: the symbol indicates that something has been entered in the Notes box for this relative - click it to display the note; clicking the icon enables you to enter another member of the same household more quickly - that's because the NAI number and surname will be filled in automatically.
Whereas entering the first person in the household - Francis in this case - typically takes 20-25 seconds, entering each additional member of the household needn't take more than 10 seconds, so usually it will take only 1 or 2 minutes to enter an entire household, even a large one like the O'Rourke family.
Whilst you're entering members of the same household only that household is displayed on the screen - this simplifies and speeds up the process. But at any time you can return to your My Ancestors page and see every household that you've entered so far by clicking Display All:
Alternatively, if you want to enter relatives from a different household click New household (I've drawn arrows on the diagram above to highlight those two menu options).
Searching for living relatives
Once you've entered at least one relative on your My Ancestors page you can click the Search button at the top of the page at any time to carry out a global search for your living relatives - global in the sense that we'll compare all the entries you've made, whether from the Irish census or any of the other censuses that LostCousins supports, against all the entries made by other LostCousins members, wherever they are in the world.
No matter how many entries there are on your My Ancestors page it won't take more than a few seconds to carry out this search. When it is complete you'll be told how many new matches have been found, in other words how many of your relatives have been matched for the first time with those of other members.
Don't worry if you aren't immediately successful in finding 'lost cousins' - there are new members joining LostCousins all the time. It takes just seconds to log-in and click the Search button, so if you're particularly anxious to find new cousins, why not do this once a month?
Just remember that the more relatives you're able to enter from the censuses, the more 'lost cousins' you're likely to find. For example, a member who has entered 100 relatives can expect to find 20 times as many cousins as a member who has entered only 5 (though in the short-term there's an element of luck involved - you could hit the jackpot with your very first entry!). See the article Hints and Tips for Keen Researchers on the Help & Advice page for more detailed advice.
Copyright 2010-14 Peter Calver and Lost Cousins Ltd; census images copyright National Archives of Ireland