1766 Religious Census

In March and April 1766 Church of Ireland rectors were instructed by the government to make a return of all householders in their parishes showing their religion. Unfortunately the original returns were lost in the 1922 fire in the Four Courts, Dublin. We therefore have to rely on the transcripts of Tenison Groves. Some of these only supply numerical statistics for parishes. Others list the names of heads of family or household and provide details of their religion.

Below are examples of two pages from PRONI: T808/15264-7. The first page shows part of the Parish of Bovevagh where the names of householders are listed by townland and the religion of each is given [E = Episcopalian or Church of Ireland, S = Scots or Dissenter or Presbyterian, P = Papist or Roman Catholic.

The second page relates to part of the adjoining Parish of Banagher where only the names of Protestant families are returned and no reference is made to townlands. Sometimes, in the eighteenth century, the term Protestant was used to refer to the members of the Established Church only. Here the term Protestant is being used to include both Church of Ireland and Dissenter. Note that, on both pages, I have underlined Irish surnames in green. As you can see there is not always a perfect match between Irish names and religion.

I have created a database containing 3,427 names from ten parishes in the county where names [presumably of the heads of households] are listed. The parishes are Banagher, Bovevagh, Drumachose and Dungiven in the barony of Keenaght and Artrea, Ballynascreen, Derryloran, Desertlyn, Desertmartin, and Magherafelt in the barony of Loughinsholin. I have also added some names [R.C. only] for parts of the parish of Coleraine.

The entries in the Excel file follow the order of names within each of the parishes in the Groves transcripts. In the case of the parishes of Bovevagh, Drumachose, Artrea and Derryloran the breakdown of names is by townland. In each of the remaining six parishes there is just a list of names. I suspect the names follow some geographical order but it is not always possible to work this out. You can of course sort the names alphabetically within the Excel database. The entries in the PDF files have been sorted by surname and place.  

The sources of this information for the database were PRONI: T808/15264-7 and T3709/9 for Desertlyn, and Rev. James O'Laverty, An Historical account of the Diocese of Down and Connor, Ancient and Modern, Vol. IV, Dublin, 1887, Appendix [pages xxix & xxx]. My thanks to Robert Forrest for drawing my attention to the O'Laverty source.

Unfortunately, within North and Mid Antrim there is only one parish, Ballymoney, which has a list of 646 names with their religions but, unfortunately the rector did not indicate the townland in which each person lived.

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Copyright 2010 W. Macafee.