How the Browse Census button linked my Great Aunt Rose to Samuel Beckett.

This is a curiously ironic tale of how bad handwriting on an Irish census resulted in a family link to Samuel Beckett, winner of the 1969 Nobel Prize in Literature.


My father always spoke fondly about his Aunt Rose – Rose Flood – so I felt I already knew a lot about her. But, I just could not locate her in the 1911 Irish Census, even after using the ‘Browse Census’ button (on the census section of the National Archives of Ireland’s web site) for her native Wicklow. This browse feature allows one to search by location if you cannot find your ancestor by name. So, I hunted down Rose’s marriage record, which gave me her address in Dublin just a few weeks after the 1911 census had been taken. I then went back to the 1911 census and used the Browse Census button again.


And there she was … mistranscribed as ‘Ron Hood’ instead of ‘Rose Flood’. Her employer, one Henry Beckett, had completed the census form, so it was his appalling handwriting that had led to the transcription error. My biggest surprise came when I researched Henry Beckett himself:  he was none other than the uncle of Samuel Beckett, the great novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet.


Now, as I walk to work at the Irish Family History Centre in Dublin’s CHQ building, which is beside the River Liffey, I am reminded of Rose whenever I look up see my new favourite bridge: the Samuel Beckett Bridge.


By Irish Family History Centre Expert Researcher,

Maura Flood


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