1831 Census Returns for Co. Londonderry
Great Britain, where detailed Census Enumerators'
Returns are available from 1841, virtually none exist
for Ireland before 1901. However, in county Londonderry
we have a unique source which, as far as I know, is
not available for any other county in Ireland - the
1831 Census Returns. Despite being referred
to as census returns, they do not contain the detailed
information on individuals that we find in the 1901
and 1911 Census Returns. In
fact the returns were produced as a Religious
Census for use in the First Report of the Commission
of Public Instruction (1834/35), thus the
predominance of information on individual religions.
The categories of Established Church, Roman Catholic,
Presbyterian and other Protestant Dissenters are similar
to the categories used in the 1766 Religious Census.
Nevertheless, despite not being a full-blown census
return, the 1831 Census Returns are a valuable source.
If nothing else, they clearly demonstrate the limitations
of the Tithe Applotment Books as a source for family
names in the early part of the nineteenth century.
returns are organised by barony, civil parish and
here to see copies of pages covering parts of
some townlands in the baronies of Loughinsholin and
Keenaght. These copies have been scanned from the
microfilm version of this source. In these pages you
will see the kind of information that is given for
listing of households in the returns normally follow
a geographical order which reflects the route that
the enumerator took around a townland or street. Because
of this, it is usually possible to match the names
in the 1831 Census Returns with the c.1830 Tithe Books
in rural areas and the c.1830 Townland Valuation in
towns. Having done that you should then be able to
match many of the 1831 names and locations with the
1858/59 Griffith's Printed [Tenement] Valuation and
its accompanying maps. You can try this process for
yourself in each of the locality studies listed in
the table at the end of this paper. Here I have databased
all of the information from the returns for a number
of townlands and streets within the county. Note that
the order of names within these databases follow the
order in the original document.
have also databased the 1831 Census Returns for the
entire county. Mainly, I used the microfilm
copies of the census held in both PRONI [MIC/5A/6-9B]
and the Local Studies Department in Ballymena Library.
I also used a copy of the index of names and places
in the 1831 Census Returns prepared some years ago.
Over the years I have made further corrections
cannot guarantee that the names listed in the database
are all correct. Certainly some are missing simply
because of the fact that they were unreadable.
have undoubtedly been entered incorrectly by me. A
look at the examples of two pages [referred to above]
should indicate why this is likely to be the case
and I should point out that the pages I have chosen
as examples are probably some of the best in the returns.
I can assure you that there are worse pages. This
is why you must treat the 1831 database as simply
a means to point you towards the townland or townlands
where the name you are looking for is located. You
can then go the microfilms in either PRONI or in the
Ballymena and Coleraine libraries to look up the details
on households. In some cases you might have to go
to the National Archives in Dublin to look at the
are 41,344 names in this database and for the purposes
of sorting and searching I have used a system of "standardised"
spelling to group together variant spellings of a
name, thereby making it easier to see patterns in
the distribution of surnames. For example the
name McIntyre is spelt a number of different ways
within the returns - McIntyre, McEntyre, McEntire,
etc. McIntyre is used as the standardised spelling
in one column of the database and the actual, variant
spellings are listed in a separate column. If yo have
not already done so, you should read the paper on
Databases where you will find more about the spelling
of surnames and townland names in the databases.
can access the 1831 database in both the Census
Records link in the left hand menu and the 19th
Century Databases link in the right hand menu.
Note that the entries within both the Excel and the
PDF databases are sorted by standardised surname,
barony, parish and townland. Clearly the Excel database
will allow you to re-sort the data in a variety of
ways. Note that if you sort the Excel database by
record number the data will be presented alphabetically
by Barony, Parish and Townland and the standardised
surnames within each each townland will be in alphabetical
order. There are some parish changes after 1831 and
to make it easier to compare parishes in the 1831
database with those in the c.1860 database, I have
indicated those townlands where a change took place.
cannot guarantee that the names listed in this database
are all correct. Some names are extremely difficult
to read/interpret; particularly when you are working
with over 40,000 of them. It is a bit easier if you
are only looking for one or two names. So, I am sure
that some names have been entered incorrectly by me.
You must treat the 1831 database as simply a means
to point you towards the townland or townlands where
the name you are looking for might be located. You
should then go the microfilms in either PRONI or Ballymena
Library or Coleraine Library and check the names and
look up the details on the households. In some cases
you might have to go to the National Archives in Dublin
to look at the originals.
are links to the Excel and PDF versions of the database.
Note that the PDF file is very large [16 MB] and may
take some time to download.
of Householders listed in the 1831 Census Returns
for County Londonderry
that I have databased the total information
for the townlands used in the Case Studies of Localities
& Families in Co. Londonderry on my 2010 CD. .
You can also access these townlands, and some others,
in the table below. Click on the name of each townland
for a map showing its location within the wider locality.
might find this map of the county helpful -
and Civil Parishes of Co. Londonderry.