Published on Wednesday16thNovember2022

Digitisation of the 1926 Census

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin, today announced that the individual returns from the 1926 Census will be published on line, searchable and free of charge in April 2026. The project will be undertaken by the National Archives of Ireland.

The 1926 Census was the first census undertaken following the foundation of the state. The Central Statistics Office (CSO) published information generated by the census including population, age, occupation, religion, housing and the Irish language. 

On the night of 18 April 1926, the population of Ireland was 2,971,992 with 49% female and 51% male.  At the previous census in 1911, the population was 3,139,688 demonstrating a reduction of 5.3% in the population in 15 years to 1926. Dublin was the only county to record an increase in population of almost 6% in the intercensal period, while all other counties recorded a loss. In 1926, a total of 92.6% of the population was Catholic and 18.3% could speak Irish. Of those employed, 51% were in agricultural occupations, 4% were fisherman, 14% were in manufacturing and 7% were domestic servants. Details are published on the CSO website at:

Personal information entered on individual census forms can be published 100 years after a census is taken. Since the personal information contained in the 1901 and 1911 census returns was published a decade ago, public interest in genealogy has mushroomed, and this continues with a growing interest in the detail contained in the 1926 census. These returns contain personal details of each individual alive at the time in Ireland. The 1926 census collected 21 data sets such as name, age, sex, marital status, religion, housing conditions and ability to speak Irish. It is planned to digitise and publish all data sets. This information will undoubtedly provide a fascinating snapshot of life in Ireland in 1926 and will be of great use to both the Irish public and diaspora worldwide.

Work will now commence to preserve, transcribe and digitise the individual census returns at a cost of €5 million. The funding has been allocated by Minister Martin for the time-consuming, specialist works necessary to allow these records to be made available free of charge to the public in April 2026. This policy of open access aligns to the Governments overall Open Data Strategy and holds significant potential for comparison between the pre-1922 data and the 1926 data at a time of radical change in Ireland.

At present, the 1926 census is stored in 1,344 boxes, containing over 700,000 return sheets, each measuring approximately 630mm x 290mm (A3 is 297x430mm). The returns are laced together in 2,464 canvas portfolios each representing an enumeration area within each of the 26 counties. 

Digitising the 1926 Census will be undertaken by the National Archives of Ireland in close cooperation with the CSO - the current and future bodies responsible for the census.

Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, Catherine Martin said:

“I am pleased to provide funding of €5 million for the digitisation and publication of the 1926 census.  It is my firm belief that census records and other genealogical records should be easily accessible and provided free of charge to the public. The €5M funding will provide for the complex, time consuming and multistage process to digitise all of the information collected by the first census of the Irish State. I am confident that work will be completed in time for release 100 years after the census was taken. Given the success of the digitised 1901 and 1911 census returns, I’m sure that the 1926 Census will be equally as popular and have a significant global reach once released. The census is a fundamental part of our national heritage and collective knowledge.”




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  • The first full Government census of Ireland was taken in 1821 with further censuses at ten-yearly intervals from 1831 through to 1911. A census was taken in June 1921, in England, Scotland and Wales but not on the island of Ireland because of the War of Independence. The first census of the population of the Irish Free State was taken on 18 June 1926.
  • The censuses from 1851 to 1911 were taken under the supervision of the Registrar General of Births, Deaths and Marriages. The 1926 and all subsequent censuses were taken under the Statistics Act, 1926. The responsibility for taking censuses was transferred from the Registrar General to the newly established Statistics Branch of the Department of Industry and Commerce. The Statistics Branch has since become the Central Statistics Office.
  • The 1926 census returns, and indeed, all censuses less than 100 years old, remain under the legal control of the Central Statistics Office (CSO).  To date censuses have been taken in 1926, 1936, 1946, 1951, 1956, 1961, 1966, 1971, 1979 (the census due in 1976 was cancelled as an economy measure), 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2002 and 2006. The returns for 1926 - 1946 and part of those for 1951 are held in the National Archives, but they remain under the control of the Central Statistics Office. The more recent returns are still held by the Central Statistics Office.
  • Sections 33 and 35 of the Statistics Act 1993 allow for the release of information gathered by a Census that relates either directly or indirectly to an identifiable person 100 years after the date that the census was taken.
  • After 100 years, the census returns must be formally transferred to the National Archives and released for public inspection, in accordance with Section 8 of the National Archives Act, 1986.
  • The Central Statistics Office (CSO), as the body responsible for the gathering of census data, has published very significant information taken from the 1926 Census in 10 volumes that include population, age, occupation, religion, housing, conjugal conditions, dependency, industries and the Irish language.  The 10 volumes are available on CSO website at Census 1926 Reports - CSO - Central Statistics Office.
  • The digitisation of the 1901 and 1911 censuses from 2007 to 2010 was less complex as the census returns had been placed on microfilm in the 1960s by the Genealogical Society of Utah (the Mormons).  Digitisation required the scanning of the microfilm to a digital form and a database index to the information recorded in the forms was created.  This database index now allows the website user to search the census data by forename, surname, county, address, age and sex. The census data is also linked to the digital images of the individual returns in which the data was recorded. The total cost of digitising the microfilm 1901 and 1911 census returns and indexing the census data was €3.6 million.
  • The 1901 and 1911 censuses digitised all of the information collected in the census so that each field is now available (and searchable) on the website. It is proposed to take a similar approach with the 1926 census and make all of the information collected at the time available on line. This consists of 21 data sets divided between Form A with 13 data sets and Form B with 8 data sets.

Providing public access to the 1926 census is really only possible if the census returns are digitised and made available as a searchable resource on line, as was done with the 1901 and 1911 censuses.  This involves the conservation and preservation of the 96 year old returns.   


The 1926 census consists of 630,048 household returns with one census return sheet per household along with around 70,0000  enumerators’ sheets.  Each return measures approximately 630mm x 290mm (A3 is 297x430mm).  The returns are laced together in 2,464 canvas portfolios each representing an enumeration area within each of the 26 counties. The entire census is stored in 1,344 boxes.


The 1926 census collected 21 data sets and it is planned to that all will be digitised and made available to the public on line in 2026.  The household return – Form A - has 13 data sets and the remaining 8 are on enumerators’ sheets Form B. 

Household Returns (Form A) 13 data sets of information for each household

  1. Name and surname;
  2. Relationship to head of household;
  3. Age (in years and months);
  4. Sex;
  5. Marriage or orphan hood;
  6. Birthplace (including name of parish)
  7. Irish language;
  8. Religion;
  9. Occupation and employment: personal occupation;
  10. Occupation and employment: employment/name of employer;
  11. Information regarding present marriage required from married women: number of completed years and months of present marriage, and number of children born alive to present marriage;
  12. Information regarding present and previous marriages required from Married Men, Widowers and Widows: the number of living sons, daughters, step-sons and step-daughters under 16 years of age, whether residing as members of this household or elsewhere.
  13. The total area in statute acres of all agricultural holdings (if any) situated in the Irish Free State of which persons usually resident in this household are the rated occupiers.


Enumerator Returns (Form B) for each townland/street:

  1. Whether buildings are private dwelling houses or other buildings;
  2. Whether inhabited or uninhabited
  3. Number of distinct families living in each house or building;
  4. Name of the head of each family;
  5. Number of males;
  6. Number of females;
  7. Total population;
  8. Number of rooms occupied by each family.