Researching your family history: 1841/1851 Ireland Census
Published on 6th May 2021
Welcome to the ninth week in our second series of Researching Your Family History during lockdown. Many researchers have found it hard to find family members who were born before civil registration which started in 1864. This week we will be exploring one source that some of our readers may not be familiar with.
We are going to look at the 1841/1851 Ireland Census Search Forms. These forms can be accessed using your library card.
In 1908 the Old Age Pensions Act introduced a non-contributory pension for people over seventy years of age who were able to meet the criteria as set out in the Act. To be eligible applicants had to be seventy years of age and over, to have an income of less than £31.10 shillings per annum and to, “be of good character”.
The full pension of 5 shillings per week for a single person, or 7 shillings per week for a married couple was available to those with an income of less than £21.
The Act was implemented in 1909 and within three months 261,668 applications were made in Ireland. The problem applicants faced when applying for the pension was how to show proof of age. Civil registration for births only started in 1864 and baptismal certificates could be hard to track down, added to this many people had no idea how old they were.
The state decided to search the 1841 and 1851 census returns to verify the pension applicants age. This was possible because the census forms were still intact as it wasn’t until 1922 that they were destroyed. If you are lucky enough to have a family member who applied for a pension these Search Forms will be invaluable in helping to further your research. The example below shows the amount of information that can be gleaned from these census pension search forms.
In 1920 Bridget Connor, now married and living in Liverpool is applying for an Irish pension. The search form for 1851 shows that Bridget had three sisters and two brothers and that her father was a coachman for Capt. Cookman in Wexford. The form lists the barony, parish and townland where Bridget lived in 1851.
It also states that her parents were married in 1844 and even gives her mother’s maiden name. The search shows that in 1851, her sister Mary was six years of age, Ann was four years and Bridget (Biddy) herself was one year 6 months.
With this information parish records could be the searched for further information on the family.