The following announcement was written by the Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO). It is an umbrella-based lobby group for the various national and international organizations sharing an interest in Irish genealogical research:
CIGO IS PETITIONING THE GOVERNMENT TO OPEN THE 1926 IRISH CENSUS
CIGO has long campaigned for the opening of post-1922 Irish census records after only seventy-five years rather than the current tariff of 100 years. In particular we believe that at the very least the 1926 census should be opened because many of the people enumerated were born before Irish civil registration began in 1864; that as the data recorded is so brief no breach of confidentiality would arise; and that as over 82 years have passed since the 1926 census was compiled virtually every adult then living is now deceased.
Public access to the 1901 and 1911 Irish census was established as early as 1961 by the late Charles Haughey TD. The returns had been temporarily stored in the Public Record Office (PRO) in the mid-1930s, where they subsequently languished. They were officially ‘transferred’ to the PRO under section 13 of the Public Records (Ireland) Act 1867 in May 1961. It is important to remember that this decision was made only fifty years after the 1911 census had been compiled. The received history is that it was done to help mitigate the loss of Ireland’s 19th century census records. Those for the 1821, 1831, 1841 & 1851 censuses were destroyed in the fire that consumed the Public Record Office in June 1922, at the height of the civil war. The returns for the 1861, 1871, 1881 & 1891 censuses were routinely destroyed through a bureaucratic muddle that saw civil servants in London advising their counterparts in Dublin that original census household schedules should be destroyed. Unfortunately, this advice was given without having first established that while in Great Britain the data in these schedules had been copied into census enumerator’s books for future preservation, no such policy was followed in Ireland.
There was to have been a census undertaken in Ireland in 1921, but that plan was abandoned because of the civil war. The first census to be undertaken in the new Irish Free State was legislated for in the Statistics Act 1926, and the enumeration was conducted in the same year. The 1926 Act did not provide for any eventual release of the household returns. However, this was remedied with the passing of the Statistics Act 1993 which did establish access, but only after one hundred years.
The US policy is far more liberal, where census records are released after seventy-one years. This approach appears to work well and is generally accepted by US citizens. All surviving US censuses (with names indexes) up to 1930 are available on the Internet.
The Genealogical Society of Ireland’s (GSI) Genealogy and Heraldry Bill, (which did not become law) allowed for the opening of the 1926 after seventy-five years. GSI has now announced that a short Bill dealing specifically with the release of the 1926 census is soon to be published by an Opposition Senator and CIGO hopes that the Government will consider seriously the Bill’s merit. In the meantime, readers of EOGN can read more about CIGO’s 1926 census policy at: http://www.cigo.ie/campaigns_1926.html and can support the ‘1926 Census’ campaign by signing CIGO’s on-line petition which can be found at: http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/1926C.