Wonderbase of the Week: 1851 Dublin City Census

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The Wonderbase of the Week at WorldVitalRecords.com is the 1851 Dublin City Census from Eneclann Ltd, a Trinity College campus company specializing in Irish history. The company is the largest research agency on the island of Ireland, and is the only digital publisher of historic records on CD-ROM, DVD and online.

The 1851 Dublin City Census index was compiled by Dr. D. A. Chart in the 19th century from the original census records–since destroyed in the 1922 Public Record Office fire. Chart’s index was converted to computerized form by Seán Magee. The index is accompanied by scanned images of the original 1847 Ordnance Survey Town Plans, to help users identify specific addresses.

This index covers central Dublin–the inner city area between the canals–and consists of approximately 59,000 names and addresses of heads of households, from 21 civil parishes, 15 on the south side of the Liffey (St. Audeon, St. Andrew, St. Anne, St. Bridget, St. Catherine, St. James, St. John, St. Luke, St. Mark, St. Michael, St. Nicholas Within, St. Nicholas Without, St. Patrick’s Deanery, St. Peter, and St. Werburgh) with a total of 33,565 entries or 56.9% of the city’s population, and 6 parishes on the north side (St. George, St. Mary, St. Michan, St. Paul, St. Thomas, and Grange Gorman) with a total of 25,429 entries or 43.1% of the population of Dublin city.

The destruction of the 19th Irish Census returns is probably the greatest loss that genealogy in Ireland has suffered. Irish genealogists have tried to fill this gap using extant documentary sources from the 19th Century, as census substitutes.

The most commonly used substitutes– the Tithe Applotment Books (compiled 1823-1838), and Griffith’s Primary Valuation (compiled 1848-1864), and Thom’s Directories (compiled after 1845), are of little or no use to researchers tracing ancestors in Dublin City. All these surveys are based on land or house holding, and do not attempt to document actual residence, in particular they do not reflect the practice of “tenement dwelling” in Dublin city, common in the mid 19th Century, whereby two or more families occupied apartments in a house.

One important census substitute has survived for the capital city however, and that is an index of the heads of households in Dublin City from the 1851 Census of Ireland as compiled by Dr D.A. Chart.

A particular feature of the census was that family members absent from the household on census night were also included; in 91 households the head of household was absent or away including Thomas Shaw, who was absent from a canal boat at Broadstone (Royal Canal) Harbour.

Another 30 heads of households are recorded as gone away, though the precise meaning of this term varied; it was used to encompass individuals such as Mary Ann Plant of 31 Mecklenburg St. Lower, who had gone to America; Michael Byrne, formerly of 84 Church St. who had gone to [the] poorhouse; and Michael Fields of 8 Rogerson’s Quay who had gone to sea.

In 122 cases the head of household had removed, an ambiguous term which encompassed:

(a) changes of address within the city, as in the case of Isaac Usher formerly of 18 North Earl St., who removed to Kingstown;

(b) emigration, including William Branagan of 7 Aldborough Place and Thomas Fitzgerald of 2 Parkgate St., both of whom removed to England; and even

(c) admittance to hospital – a Bridget Rafferty formerly of Brown St. North, was recorded as having been removed to [the] asylum.

This level of detail–though relatively rare throughout Chart’s Index–is particularly useful for the genealogist trying to track approximate dates and routes of migration.

Where the male head of household was absent, Chart recorded the wife or female head of household in his index. This information was provided from 66 households (approximately 27% of all absentees noted in the 1851 census) by the wives or other female relatives. By also recording the women present on the night of the census, as well as the absent male head of household, Chart may have allowed for the possibility that some of these women may in fact have lived independently from their men-folk, for whatever reason. However these numbers are negligible, and do not substantially alter the statistics.

In a small number of cases Chart distinguished heads of household with the same name, by noting on their occupation, or their spouse’s name.

The index is not confined to householders, but includes persons working in various institutions on census night. These include: the Royal, Richmond and Arbour Hill Barracks; the North and South Dublin Union Workhouses; Trinity College Dublin; the Royal Dublin Society; the Rotunda, Meath and Richmond Hospitals; the Dublin House of Industry; the Richmond Bridewell, and Grangegorman Prisons; the Bank of Ireland; Jury’s Hotel, etc.

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