Friday, 10 May 2013

Northern Irish 1926 census records destroyed in WW2

You know how good the Irish record on census preservation is? Well, it gets worse...

I'm looking at the minutes for the recent user group meeting at PRONI ( on March 22nd, which I was sadly unable to attend due to the bad snow that hit us. Several items were discussed at the meeting, including a demonstration of the new valuation revision books now online, but one item stands out, concerning the 1926 census. Following the previous meeting in December I had informally asked about the 1926 Northern Irish census, which was recorded on the same night as the equivalent in the Irish Free State, and any possibility of release, and was told that there were 'issues' with this - unlike the equivalent census for the Republic which is likely to see a release in the near future.

In the March meeting, the issue was raised formally within the proceedings by the North of Ireland Family History Society ( - and the definitive response from PRONI is that the 1926 Northern Irish census was pulped in the Second World War.


Weeping and gnashing of teeth won't do much to change the situation, but it breaks my heart to hear yet another example of Ireland's historic record failing to survive the past. It's not all doom and gloom - the 1937 census for Northern Ireland has survived and is secure (though currently closed to access), and the 1939 National Register for Northern Ireland is currently available from PRONI, accessible via a Freedom of Information Act.

Other news from PRONI - the Name Search database on the website is to be extended with additional material; a new digital preservation team is up and running at PRONI, tasked with delivering a digital repository for 2014; and 15,000 new entries were added to the catalogue in 2012-13, including photographs, leases and wills - there are certain priorities on the cataloguing front just now, inclusing the De Lacherois estate papers which date from 1617 – 1930’s, and papers of the Cochranes of Redcastle, Co. Donegal.

(With thanks to Gavin McMahon)

UPDATE: I've been doing a bit more digging - this may help to explain why the records were pulped, all down to the Blitz in Belfast - see


My new book, Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet, is now available from Pen and Sword. My next Pharos Scottish course, Scotland 1750-1850: Beyond the Old Parish Registers, starts May 15th - see Time to smash a few brick walls...!


  1. It is very sad that we have only a small window into our Northern Ireland roots with the 1901 and 1911 census. Thank you for the up the date.

  2. It is sad - though ironically, of the surviving census remnants pre-1901, it is the north that fares the best - 1831 for Derry, a significant part of 1851 for Antrim, etc. Still disastrous though!

    Don't forget 1939 though - I've already obtained details about my grandparents in Belfast from this. See

  3. Gobsmacked by the news! How come its only coming to light now? I've never seen any suggestion that there was a problem with it including references made in relation to the discussions regarding the early release of the Irish census and on the NISRA website,

  4. Old news... I asked PRONI years ago and yes it was pulped during the Second World War.