I join with other genealogists and family historians in calling on the Irish Government to release the 1926 Census. The current restriction on public access to the census returns taken since independence in 1922, commonly known as the 100-year rule, was introduced as part of the Statistics Act 1993. However, during the legislative debate, the then Minister of State Noel Dempsey TD gave a commitment to the Seanad to reduce the lock to 70 years. While the 2011 Programme for Government made a commitment to release the records, every effort to date to change the law and allow for the release of records has been blocked.
The 1926 Census would be a powerful genealogical tourism tool. For family historians it would be wonderful to track each part of our family line between the 1911 census and 1926 census during this period of Irish history.
I use my own history as a case in point. My dad, Michael Hassett, was born in 1936 in Dingle, Co. Kerry. His mother, Mary Catherine Foley was born in 1905 in Cromane, Co. Kerry and his father, John Francis Hassett was born in 1904 in Glin, Co. Limerick but grew up in Knockanean, near Ennis, Co. Clare. They married in Dublin in 1930 and my dad was the fifth of six children. His mother died in Beaumont, Ballintemple, Cork, in their then family home, in December 1944 and his father died within three short months in February 1945 after an accident on his bike. My dad had lost both parents by the tender age of eight.
Dad was fortunate that his Aunty Helen moved to their family home in Cork to look after him and his five siblings including his older brothers Tom, and Sean and baby brother Liam who would still like to know more about their parents’ history. My dad died in November 2015 and I am still on the trail of his parents and their ancestors through available records and newspaper cuttings. I know the 1926 Census would provide rich data and add to our knowledge and yet these records are ‘sealed’ until January 2027.
I can access the 1940 US Census, the 1939 Register of England and Wales, the 1920 Canadian Census but alas not the 1926 Census of Ireland. The 1950 US Census will be released in 2022 – five years before Ireland releases the 1926 Census. The information in the 1926 Census has been sealed in the interests of confidentiality. However, it is highly likely that every adult recorded in that Census is now dead. Furthermore, the information recorded simply comprises of forename, surname, age, marital status, relationship to head of household, religion, occupation and townland where born, employer, and if unemployed normal profession – and so I wonder why the need for secrecy. Why can’t the 1926 Census be released? My dad’s three brothers are currently aged between 73 and 81 years. The 1926 Census has the potentially to fill in important gaps in their family history, such as where their mother and father were in the years before they married in 1930. It is absurd that we have to wait until 2027 to access this information? The story of my family history is just one of countless who hunger for information on their identity and roots not to mention the benefits to tourism a release of this nature will attract.
In July 2016 I wrote an Open Letter to Government calling for release of 1926 Census of Ireland.
For background reading here are extracts I have put together of the original Oireachtas Debate on Statistics Bill 1993
I have received the following responses:
Letter from Chief Whip Regina Doherty, July 2016
Letter from Minister for Arts Heritage, Regional, Rual and Gaeltacht Affairs, 19 August 2016
Letter to Minister Shane Ross from Dept of Arts Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 19 August 2016