1813 census of Ireland


The first reliable statutory census of the population of Ireland was taken in 1821. An earlier census authorised by statute had been taken between 1813 and 1815. The results, however, were defective and neither printed nor presented to parliament. The census was a substantial failure.

The census was to be statistical in nature only, although in a few baronies heads of households names were recorded (the returns for the six completed baronies of Dublin county, and the half-barony of Upper Lecale, Co. Down).

A bill for a census of Ireland became law on 18 July 1812 and the enumeration was to start on 1 May 1813 and continue without delay until completion. The data to be collected for each enumeration district were the number of inhabited houses, families, houses under construction, uninhabited houses, families engaged in agriculture, in trade, manufacture, handicrafts, and other occupations, persons of each sex exclusive of soldiers, militia, and naval personnel, and persons in each city, town, or village, in the counties.

The census was a substantial failure despite apparently well-drafted legislation and the close attentions of the overseer Shaw Mason. The census failed for several reasons; the administration of the census by the grand juries; unsuitable enumerators and opposition to the census mainly by the Roman Catholic peasantry. 

The failure of the first census had taught lessons which were well learned and the 1821 census of Ireland was hailed as a great success. The main changes from 1813 were in local supervision and in the quality of the enumerators.

Very little has survived of this census. Two surviving fragments of enumerators' abstracts are known to be extant - for the barony of Longford, county Galway and for the parishes of Killkillvery and Killeany, county Galway.

Below are the returns for Inch parish, Co Down as recorded by Tenison Groves.
PRONI Groves' Mss T808
The returns for the parish of Inch, Co Down were noted by the genealogist Tenison Groves taken in the Public Record Office, Dublin (reference 1H12-82). Subsequently, these returns as well as the more valuable census returns for 1821 through to 1851 were destroyed in the explosion and fire in the Record Office in Dublin in 1922 at the outbreak of the Irish civil war.

The returns for Inch were completed by William Henry who had been appointed by the Grand Jury of Co Down and the census was completed by 1 April 1814.

In total 431 families resided in the parish with a total population of 2450 persons. Of interest is the record of employment. The majority of families (340) were involved in agriculture reflecting the rural nature of the parish. 81 were involved in trade, manufacture and handicraft most likely connected to the linen trade and domestic spinning and weaving.

The 1813 census was a failure but mistakes made were rectified by the time of the 1821 census, and the latter was considered to be the bench mark for future work in population and census studies.

Information on the census returns for 1821-1851 is available at the National Archives, Ireland website linked below:



  1. Hi, I'm interested in this 1813 census for Inch parish. The reference is T808, but that is not sufficient to locate it within PRONI. A far more detailed reference is required - i.e. T808/xxxxx. Is there any chance you could provide the more specific reference. I have looked for it on the PRONI catalogue, but I have not managed to locate it. Thanks,


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