Thursday, 8 May 2014

Did your Irish ancestor apply for a pension whilst abroad?

I've been having a general look at the 1841/1851 Census Search forms used to prove age for the Irish based Old Age Pension applications from 1909 onwards, now available at, and have figured out a few facts and figures that may be of interest. The following are not definitive, because the database has quite a few transcription errors and abbreviations in play, but it does give a rough estimation of how widespread the applicants were, and how useful the database may be for the Irish diaspora as well as for those with ancestors in Ireland.

Total number of applications: 33991

Ireland - broken down by county, in alphabetical order:

Antrim (2085), Armagh (1135), Carlow (95), Cavan (1980), Clare (1110), Cork (652), Donegal (1963), Down (1980), Dublin (283), Fermanagh (1218), Galway (2687), Kerry (1401), Kildare (159), Kilkenny (239), King's (367), Leitrim (942), Limerick (681), Londonderry (1096), Longford (348), Louth (353), Mayo (2998), Meath (359), Monaghan (899), Queen's (137), Roscommon (1072), Sligo (968), Tipperary (387), Tyrone (1400), Wexford (518), Waterford (295), Westmeath (228), Wicklow (134)

Ireland - broken down by county, in order of most applications to least:

Mayo (2998), Galway (2687), Antrim (2085), Cavan (1980), Down (1980), Donegal (1963), Tyrone (1400), Fermanagh (1218), Armagh (1135), Clare (1110), Londonderry (1096), Kerry (1401), Roscommon (1072), Sligo (968), Leitrim (942), Monaghan (899), Limerick (681), Cork (652), Wexford (518), Tipperary (387), King's (367), Meath (359), Louth (353), Longford (348), Waterford (295), Dublin (283), Kilkenny (239), Westmeath (228), Kildare (159), Queen's (137), Wicklow (134), Carlow (95)

Not all applicants were in Ireland, however - far from it:
  • Number of applicants including the word 'Scotland' in the address: 387
  • Number of applicants including the word 'England' in the address: 263
  • Number of applicants including the word 'Wales' in the address: 40
  • Number of applicants including the word 'Australia' in the address: 87
  • Number of applicants including the words 'New Zealand' in the address: 46 (of which, 27 for the New Zealand High Commission in London)
  • Number of applicants including the word 'Canada' in the address: 8
  • Number of applicants including the words 'South Africa' in the address: 5

Unfortunately, these numbers are actually a gross misrepresentation of the true numbers applying for a pension overseas beyond Ireland, as there are many applications naming addresses with cities but not the country. For example, a search on the city of Glasgow returns some 603 applications, Edinburgh has 626 returns, Dundee 47, Ayr 4, Aberdeen 1, London circa 410, Birmingham 43, Manchester 219, Bristol 13, Cardiff 18, Swansea 5, and so on.

NB: Many British based entrants have 'LGB' in their address, as in 'LGB Scotland' - this is short for 'Local Government Board'. Other transcription errors include Coatbridge as 'Cootbridge', Wishaw as 'Mishaw', Dumbartonshire as 'Dumbertonshire', etc. Australia is sometimes down as 'Ans' instead of 'Aus' as an abbreviation also.

Number of applicants with a United States address - this one's a bit more complex, as the entries have been transcribed as USA, U S A, and others. The following is the result of a search by individual state, fully spelled out (and 1 federal district), which provided the following:

California (5), Colorado (2), Connecticut (4), Delaware (1), Illinois (7), Indiana (2), Iowa (2), Kansas (1), Kentucky (1), Maryland (1), Massachusetts (7), Michigan (2), Missouri (1), Nebraska (1), New Jersey (15), New York (50), North Dakota (2), Ohio (3), Oklahoma (2), Pennsylvania (4), Tennessee (1), Texas (1), Utah (2), Washington [DC] (1) and Wisconsin (4).
122 in total

Again, this is an underestimate, as there are many entries with abridged state names - e.g. 'Mass' for Massachussetts (another 37 entries), 'Massachusettes' for Massachusetts (1 entry), 'Penria' for Pennsylvania (1 entry), 'Winconsin' for Wisconsin (1), and many other variants.

If your Irish ancestor emigrated, it's plain to see that the database may well be worth a shot for additional information that may have been found from the 1841 or 1851 censuses.

UPDATE: More stats:


Queensland (35), New South Wales (21) - and another 9 for 'N S W', 3 for 'New South Walls' and another 8 for 'N S Wales', Victoria (2) - also 19 more for 'Victoria, Australia', South Australia (4), Western Australia (6) - and one for 'Perth W Australia'.

Also, 2 applications from France (Marseilles and Rhone), and 4 from the Isle of Man.


Now available for UK research is the new second edition of the best selling Tracing Your Family History on the Internet: A Guide for Family Historians. And for those wishing to take Scottish ancestral research a bit further, my next Pharos course, Scotland 1750-1850: Beyond the Old Parish Records, commences May 14th 2014.

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