A young man from county Tyrone arrived in to the Irish Family History Centre because he was having significant problems finding any members from one branch of his family. Specifically, he was unable to find any members of this branch on the 1911 Irish census, and, to make matters worse, he could not find any evidence of their births, marriages or deaths, either. The young man was absolutely sure of the location and informed me that this family had lived there for generations. I knew that records for the early to mid-20th century were actually good. So, why was this entire family seemingly untraceable?
We started by looking up the 1911 census on the National Archives of Ireland’s website, using the “Browse” function for land divisions to concentrate on townlands. We looked at the names of the families in the townland where we were sure that the family had lived and, sure enough, they were not listed. But then we noticed that some of the surnames were in Irish. By going through each family, we were able to identify the correct family by the forename, even though the forenames were also in Irish. The young man was quite taken aback.
We then continued by looking up relevant births, marriages and deaths. Once again, we initially found nothing. But on further investigation, we realised that the registration district for their particular births, marriages and deaths had changed since the 19th century. To add to the confusion, an extra letter had been added to the end of the surname in some of the birth records. No wonder the young man had had trouble.
One take-home tip: if you are unable to find your family in either the 1901 or 1911 Irish census when you know they have been in a locality for generations – try Irish!
By Maura Flood,
Expert Researcher at The Irish Family History Centre.