Thursday 17 March 2022

Ireland's 2022 Census: Leaving a message to your descendants

Over the last two weeks, a team of some 5,100 enumerators has been delivering Census 2022 forms to households across the Republic of Ireland. These forms relate to the five-yearly census postponed from last April (due to Covid-19). All homes should have received their form by Census Night, Sunday 3 April. Whether you've received yours already or not, use the next few weeks to think about what you might, or might not, include as a message for future generations. I'm not alone is still scratching my head.

This year's census offers what's being called the Time Capsule. This is a space at the end of the form for you to leave your own personal message, if you would like to do so. It's purely voluntary, but I suspect most genealogists can imagine the delight of reading a message – perhaps a secret, a snippet of harmless gossip, a silly joke, or some insight into character – in their ancestor's handwriting from a century earlier.

This Time Capsule 'message' will, along with the rest of the form, remail confidential for 100 years and will then be made available to the public.

I can already hear future genealogists competing for the 'Best Ancestor's Time Capsule Awards 2123!

There are no restrictions on what is written in the Time Capsule. This freedom is a problem: the possibilities are endless. Surely writing nothing would be disappointing for your ancestors. But so would writing about the weather, the price of bread, your favourite socks, or what you think of the spring TV schedule. I'm sure many individuals will take the opportuntity to reveal racy, sad, shocking personal or family stories. Others might take the maxim 'revenge is best served cold' to its nth degree and dish it up to the world 100 years on.

Rejigged question, with 'No religion' as the first option

I almost dread to think what some of these Time Capsules will contain, but there will also be plenty of amusing anecdotes, quirky comments, and many messages of hope that our generation woke up and responded to climate change in time, and that we did – eventually – give peace more than just a chance.

Collectively, the Time Capsule message will create a fascinating insight to Ireland's mind-set in 2022. And they'll give journalists, genealogists and historians a wide new stream of material to write about well into the 22nd century.

In addition to the Time Capsule, the upcoming census asks eight new questions, including ones on remote working and sustainable energy. The religion question has also been re-ordered, so that 'no religion' is at the top of the selection list; this is expected to deliver a clearer picture of the size of the Republic of Ireland's non-religious cohort.

To find out more about this year's census, click the Census 2022 logo above. To download a sample of the census form, click here.