Thursday 13 April 2023

Stories from Census 1911: Wealth and poverty across the island

The Central Statistics Office (CS0) has been digging deeper into the 1911 Census of Ireland to find stories that tell us more about how our ancestors lived at that time.

CSO's Census 1911 Valuation per person (VPP) visual.
Click for enlarged image and to view
Table 2.1's VPP by county.

In the first release from the new project, and working with their colleagues in NISRA (the CSO's counterpart in Northern Ireland), statisticians were looking to gain insights into wealth and poverty across the island.

To do this, they have used valuation (land and buildings) reports, which were not collected on the Census forms but were maintained by the Valuation Office for tax purposes, and have divided the valuation for the area by the population in the area.

The release strives to remain true to the original publication in as far as possible. For example, place names and monetary denominations from the original publication were retained, with occasional decimalisation of pounds, shillings, and pennies for ease of reading.

Internal inconsistencies in the original data tables are also retained rather than corrected.

When looking at wealth and poverty in Ireland in 1911 it was found that nine of the top ten wealthiest counties in 1911 were in Leinster and seven of the ten poorest counties were towards the West of the country. 

Eight of the top twenty wealthiest District Electoral Divisions (DEDs) were in Meath alone, while eight of the twenty poorest DEDs were in Donegal.

Some specifics:

  • Meath was the wealthiest county at that time with a valuation per person of £8 10s 2d (£8.51) (See Table 2.1). Culmullin in Dunshaughlin was the DED with the highest valuation per person of £20 19s 5d (£20.97) (See Table 2.2). 
  • The poorest county was Mayo with a valuation per person of £1 13s 7d (£1.68) (See Table 2.1). 
  • Annagary in Glenties, Donegal was the DED with the lowest valuation per person of 4s 7d (£0.23) (See Table 2.3). 
  • My paternal grandfather's cottage near Clonakilty was one of only 123 houses housing a total population of 584 people in Coolcraheen DED. The valuation per person came in at £2.06.
  • My maternal grandmother, just two years old in 1911, was born in a house on High Street Bagenalstown in County Carlow, where the valuation per person was a few3 pennies less at £2.03.

To explore the new data or to calculate the valuation for where your ancestors lived, see the full press release from the CSO. Alternatively, click the map and show Table 2.1, which provides a county by county breakdown of valuations.