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Minister Tony Killeen Launches 1901 Census of Clare

Address by Tony Killeen, T.D, Minister for Labour Affairs launching the 1901 Census of Clare online

The 1901 Census is the earliest surviving comprehensive census to give details of every individual in Ireland at the beginning of the 20th century. A full government census of the Irish population was taken nearly every 10 years from 1821 on, but the personal details contained in those prior to 1901 were destroyed. This means that the 1901 returns remain the only complete record of every person in Ireland on Sunday 31st. March of that year. Because of this, the normal rule that census details should not be made available to the public for 100 years afterwards has been suspended by the National Archives for the 1901 and 1911 census.

The original returns for the 1901 census are available to the public in the National Archives in Dublin, and a microfilm copy is available in the Local Studies Centre in Ennis. Thanks to the hard work of Clare Local Studies Project (CLASP) and Clare County Library, the census is now available on the library’s website. As the 1901 census of County Clare is the earliest to survive that gives details of individuals, it is of prime importance to those interested in Clare genealogy and history.

Clare Local Studies Project (CLASP) is an independent organization set up by four librarians of Clare County Library to develop awareness of sources for local studies in Clare and increase access to those sources. A successful application to FÁS, the Training Authority, outlining the objectives of CLASP was lodged in early 1995 and work commenced on a Community Response Project in May 1995. The board of CLASP consists of librarians Noel Crowley, Anthony Edwards, Ted Finn, and Maureen Comber. The current FAS project supervisor is Martina Crowley-Hayes, with senior trainee Amanda O’Donovan.

CLASP is a local organisation, using local talents and resources for the benefit of the community and has produced 14 publications, 6 exhibitions, and numerous online publications, which are available on the Clare County Library website at CLASP has won a regional FAS award for its genealogical research and has also been awarded the Special Merit prize at the National Community Initiative awards.

A major part of the work on the census was carried out by the CLASP trainees, and the process of learning to create, design and manipulate and query databases has greatly benefit CLASP trainees with their computer training for their computer exams and accreditation. Without the input of CLASP, the library would not have been in a position to undertake such a vast project as details had to be input for each of the 112,334 people living in the county on census night.

CLASP began transcribing the census in 1997. Trainees printed out census records from the microfilm copies in the Local Studies Centre and keyed the records into a database. If a query arose, for example if a record was difficult to decipher, the printouts would be checked against the microfilm reels. The records would then be proofread many times by the trainees before being handed over to Martina and Amanda for a final check. Records were then passed to the library’s website team for conversion, design and uploading to the library website.

The census data is fully integrated with the other data on the library’s website. For instance, from each parish you can access the returns for that parish. The Census is also fully searchable as each and every word on each page is fully indexed by the library website search engine, so that if you don’t know exactly where in Clare a particular person was living, you can search for their name.

The response to the online census has been overwhelming with genealogists who are interested in Clare contacting the library to say how much they appreciate such an important resource being made available to them.

It is the only free online county Irish census available, and CLASP, Clare County Library and FAS have shown what can be achieved when people and institutions co-operate together for the good of the entire community. Great credit is also due to the individual transcribers and proofreaders (the FAS trainees), and to the painstaking efforts of the library’s website staff, who can now be proud to have been part of a pioneering genealogical project.