Stand up and be Counted

I was sorting through some old papers at the weekend and came across a couple of copies from the census forms from 1901 and 1911 in Ireland. They were so simple compared with the 24 page forms of the present day. Alas they are far from what is considered politically correct in this day and age.

The 1901 Form had one page with 11 columns to be completed.

RETURN of the MEMBERS of this FAMILY and their VISITORS, BOARDERS, SERVANTS, ETC., who slept or abode in this House on the night of Sunday, the 31st of March 1901.


Columns 1 Name & Surname

The Name of the Head of the Family should be written first; then the names of his Wife, Children, and other Relatives; then those of Visitors, Boarders, Servants, Etc.,

Column 2 – Relation to Head of Family.

State whether ‘Head of Family,’ or ‘Wife,’ ‘Son,’ ‘Daughter,’ or other Relative; ‘Visitor,’ ‘Boarder,’ ‘Servant,’ Etc.

Column 3 – Religious Profession.

State here the particular Religion, or Religious Denomination, to which each person belongs. [Members of Protestant Denominations are requested not to describe themselves by the vague term “Protestant,” but to enter the name of the Particular Church, Denomination, or Body to which they belong.]

Column 4 – Education.

State here whether he or she can “Read and Write,” can “Read” only, or “Cannot Read.”

Column 5 – Age

This is divided into two columns. A) Age last Birthday & b) Months for Infants under one year.

Column 6 – Sex

Column 7 – Rank, Profession or Occupation.

State the particular Rank, Profession, Trade, or other Employment of each person. Children or young persons attending School, or receiving regular instruction at home, should be returned as Scholars.

– Now ladies take a deep breath as we look at this one.

In the 1911 Census the following note is added to this column:

[No entry should be made in the case of wives, daughters, or other female relatives solely engaged in domestic duties at home.]

Column 8 – Marriage

Whether ‘Married,’ ‘Widower,’ ‘Widow,’ or ‘Not Married.’ The latter becomes ‘Single,’ in the 1911 version.

Column 9 – Where Born

If in Ireland state in what County or City; if elsewhere, state the name of the Country.

Column 10 – Irish Language.

Write the word ‘Irish’ in the column opposite the name of each person who speaks Irish only, and the words ‘Irish & English’ opposite the names of those who speak both languages. In other cases no entry should be made in this column.

Column 11This abhors me!

If Deaf and Dumb;

Dumb only;


Imbecile or Idiot;

Or Lunatic

Write the respective infirmities opposite the name of the afflicted person.

I notice in this column in the 1911 Census, entered next my grandfather’s name is: Right leg amputated


15 thoughts on “Stand up and be Counted

  1. Makes you realise that ‘some’ things have improved with time – and you’re definitely one of them GM!

    Can I let my breath out now please?

    ps Liked the Consultant jibe btw

  2. Grannymar that’s a classic, you should frame it. As a lover of the non PC I love the infirmities section . . now we’re so PC that you can nominate ‘Jedi’ as your religion! Pelease!

  3. Baino it was such a MALE world back then, I wonder how I would have survived. The world I grew up in was bad enough… Don’t get me started.

    Betty, it is possible to find some of the forms online. Each county seems to have their own site. Try and from there choose the county you need. Good Luck.

    My copy was from pre-computerised days. They are not good quality and many of the old records are missing altogether. It takes time, plenty of it and great patience.

    Happy hunting.

  4. What if nobody in the family could read or write? or what if you just thought some of your family members where idiots but that was just your personal opinion and not a true reflection on their mental state?

  5. Nonny,

    In the local area of the above example, people who were unable to read or write went to my grandfather and he would fill in the information for them. He was regularly asked to read letters and send replies. He read their legal documents for them etc…

    As for your other question… don’t get me started. There were many young girls who were committed to institutions because they became pregnant outside of marriage!

  6. Glad to provide inspiration John!

    SOME DAY I might tell te story of My Grandfather John, mentioned above. I have to spend time sorting the truth from the fable!

  7. Pingback: Census 1901 - a look into the past at Holy Shmoly!

  8. Hello Grannymar and visitors,

    What a surprise to see the 1901 census record come up in one of my Google irish alerts as I have the exact same year in the records I found for my father. He was born in that year and in the column under occupation, my grandfather put “scholar”! Since my dad was just an infant, I’ve always thought that my grandfather must have written that description of my dad’s occupation tongue in cheek and with a twinkle in his eye! Poitically incorrect as those old forms were, they called a spade a spade!

    What struck me about the entire form was my grandather’s incredibly beautiful penmanship. My father’s handwriting was just as beautiful.

    All the best,


  9. Welcome Bridget,

    Years of practice in Vere Foster headline copies helped form a good clear result for writing. My Father’s and Grandfather’s handwriting were very similar. Alas the invention of the Ball point pen and computers have done little for the craft.

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