Tuesday 20 October 2020

1926 Census of the Irish Free State is back in the news

The 1926 Census of the Irish Free State is once again making headlines. Today, it's the subject of a piece on RTÉ, Ireland's national news service, which carries a statement from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) referring to the publication on social media of data and images purporting to be from the census taken in 1926. Such publication, as the CSO makes clear in its statement, is strictly prohibited. It has also posted a tweet to this effect, see below.

Regardless, multiple such images were published and shared on Facebook over the last few days, creating quite a storm of excitement among genealogists. Add in a drop of Chinese Whispers and gossips were soon telling that the census returns had been officially released online.

In the first 'report' I heard this morning, kind civil servants had released the images to cheer up family historians in Ireland as they face a new Lockdown from tomorrow night!


Thanks to Boards.ie (the best free online forum for Irish genealogy), the real story has been unravelled. No kind civil servants, of course. And no release of census returns, either. It turns out a stash of documents related to the 1926 census were recently discovered (in a skip behind the barracks in Fermoy, Co Cork, according to one gossip strain) and was uploaded to Facebook in all innocence of their 'protected status'. A couple of hundred images were circulated as the story gathered steam, giving details of households in the town, and some viewers were delighted to find older members of their families recorded.

Exactly what was the intended role of the documents has not been ascertained. They were not census returns, as such.

The CSO says the person who uploaded them has agreed to remove the images from Facebook. While I can see some examples remain live, I imagine they will be deleted as and when the news that their publication is illegal reaches more page-admins.

The 1926 census is not due to be released until 2027. If you would like to add your name to the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations's petition to see it released early, see Change.org.

For more information about the 1926 census, she the dedicated page on my website, Irish-Genealogy-Toolkit.com.