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; hosts the most complete set of the Primary Valuation publications which exists), 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.

Start exploring the Dublin City Census 1851 Heads of Household Index

Chart's Index

Chart's index, preserved in the National Archives (CEN 1851/18/1-2) consists of two hand written volumes, one for Dublin City South and one for Dublin City North. The index is compiled from family names taken from the census form B. Chart's names index is organised by street names within each civil parish and so is not easy to use unless the researcher already has an address.

The present index has been compiled with a view to making the Chart's original index more widely available and easier to use. Also the condition of the two volumes held in the National Archives is quite poor after 85 years: the volumes are hardbound, and the spine of the volume of entries for Dublin South is broken with some frayed loose pages. So this index should help prevent any further deterioration of the original manuscript.

The origin of the index confers a semi-official status. It is mentioned in 47 PRO DK Report, 1915, which states that in the absence of adequate records of births, "the census returns of 1851 have been useful in furnishing proof of age". This proof was particularly necessary to substantiate applications for the old age pension. Hence,

"a catalogue of families residing in Dublin on the night the census was taken has now been compiled from the census returns. and will be used henceforth to check the statements of applicants and to locate families living in Dublin of whose address there is no certain knowledge. The catalogue has been prepared by D.A. Chart; it will save the Dublin census returns from much unnecessary wear and will be extremely helpful to genealogists, claimants of OAP's, etc."

Although a census substitute, no matter what its provenance, can never replace the original census, Chart’s Index, is more than simply a list of heads of households, containing as it does, ancillary information. It is therefore an important and unique source for historians and genealogists.

The Index Records

All index entries contain:

For example:

Eliza; Byrne; 2; Furlong's Court, Back Lane; St. Audeon's; South

Geographical Coverage

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.

Features of the census

The 1851 census was carried out by the police acting as enumerators on 30th March 1851.

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.

Comparing Chart's Index and Thom's Directory

A comparison of Chart's Index with the 1851 edition of Thom's Directory, reveals the importance of the Index to the Dublin genealogist. Chart's Index covers all heads of household resident in the city on the night of 30th March, whereas Thom's lists only the ratepayers and does not include those who lived in tenements or cottages. The Index is therefore much wider in its scope than any other extant source for Dublin city.

In some instances the two sources between them name not only the householder, but also a spouse or other family member, so that the two sources are complementary. (If you are using both sources, note that there are some discrepancies in house numbers between the two.)