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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 here

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.

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