19 January 2018
Family history researchers are urged to sign a petition for the early release of the 1926 Irish Census
A lobby group representing Irish family history associations and societies is urging researchers to sign an online petition calling on the Government of Ireland to honour the commitment given in the 2011 Programme for Government to release the 1926 Census of Ireland.
The Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO), which also has affiliate members in all major Irish diaspora nations, launched the campaign on 6 December, a date with two historical associations for Ireland: on 6 December 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed and exactly one year later the Irish Free State was established.
Ireland has a sad history with regard to the preservation of census returns. After a series of administrative blunders and the subsequent fire in the Public Records Office during the Civil War in 1922, only fragments of the 19th century returns survive.
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The period between 1911 and 1926 was one of great change in Ireland: the Great War, Easter Rising, War of Independence, Partition and then the Civil War. All this upheaval led to significant internal migration and overseas emigration.
CIGO is petitioning the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar TD, who has responsibility for the Central Statistics Office, which oversees the census, and Heritage Minister Josepha Madigan TD, with responsibility for the National Archives, to renew the commitment of the previous government to the early release of the original 1926 Census returns.
It argues there is clear precedent for early release; both the 1901 and 1911 Census returns were released in 1961, and in 2015 The National Archives in the UK successfully released the 1939 National Register for England and Wales, safeguarding the personal data of those still living by redaction.
The 1926 Census returns of Ireland are stored in the National Archives in Dublin, but will require cataloguing and conservation work before they can be digitised. Given that this work will take time, CIGO is calling on the Government to commit to releasing the 1926 Census in 2022, as part of the celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the State. This could be done, says CIGO, by supporting the recently published Seanad ‘1926 Census’ private members bill, ‘with any lingering questions about confidentiality being easily addressed by redaction’.
At the petition launch, CIGO chairman Colm Cochrane said: ‘We hope with the launch of an online petition calling for the release of the 1926 Census that genealogists and historians will rally to the call; that they will not only support it, but share it, too, on social media, and lobby politicians.’
The petition and more information can be found here.
Leinster House photograph by Jean Housen, reproduced under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported Licence.