Family and Local History
[Bill Macafee's Website]

Births, Deaths, & Marriages
Census Records
Valuation Records
Tithe Records
Estate Records
Other Records

Census Records
1831 Census Returns for Co. Londonderry

Unlike Great Britain, where detailed Census Enumerators' Returns are available from 1841, virtually none exist for Ireland before 1901. However, in county Londonderry we have a unique source which, as far as I know, is not available for any other county in Ireland - the 1831 Census Returns.  Despite being referred to as census returns, they do not contain the detailed information on individuals that we find in the 1901 and 1911 Census Returns. In fact the returns were  produced as a Religious Census for use in the First Report of the Commission of Public Instruction (1834/35), thus the predominance of information on individual religions. The categories of Established Church, Roman Catholic, Presbyterian and other Protestant Dissenters are similar to the categories used in the 1766 Religious Census. Nevertheless, despite not being a full-blown census return, the 1831 Census Returns are a valuable source. If nothing else, they clearly demonstrate the limitations of the Tithe Applotment Books as a source for family names in the early part of the nineteenth century. 

The census returns are organised by barony, civil parish and townland.  Click here to see copies of pages covering parts of some townlands in the baronies of Loughinsholin and Keenaght. These copies have been scanned from the microfilm version of this source. In these pages you will see the kind of information that is given for each household.

When I first created a database in 2010 I was concentrating on producing a index of names, and that is still my prime objective. However, I have always wanted to add the statistical information which is available on the microfilms. So I have been adding this information over the last few years. Within the database this statistical information is arranged in the columns shown below.

House No. No. of Families in House Total No. in House No. of Males in Family No. of Females in Family No. of Male Servants No. of Female Servants EC RC PR PD Notes

The first three columns give details of the number of a house or building within a townland, the number of families living in that house [usually one] and the total number of persons living in that house. The next four columns give some detail on the numbers and makeup of the house. The occupants are divided into two groups - the number of males and females in the family and the number of male and female servants living with the family. The next four columns provide information on the religion of the members of the household - EC [Established Church] RC [Roman Catholic] PR [Presbyterian] and PD [Other Protestant Dissenters] such as Covenanters, Baptists or Methodists and, occasionally there is a note to that effect. No distinction is made between family members and servants in the columns on religion. However, it is usually fairly easy to work out the religion of servants within a household.

Note that I cannot guarantee that the surnames listed in the database are all correct. Also there are many variant spellings of certain surnames. To help overcome this problem I have used a system of "standardised" spelling to group together variant spellings of a name, thereby making it easier to see patterns in the distribution of surnames.  For example the name McIntyre is spelt a number of different ways within the returns  - McIntyre, McEntyre, McEntire, etc. McIntyre is used as the standardised spelling in one column of the database and the actual, variant spellings are listed in a separate column. Mc names can be difficult to decipher so when working with them have a look in the database for spellings which are close to the particular surname you are researching. In some cases I have added [?] at the end of a surname - indicating that I am unsure about a particular spelling. At the end of the day, if in doubt about a surname you will need to consult the microfilms in either PRONI or in the Ballymena and Coleraine libraries. In some cases you might have to go to the National Archives in Dublin to look at the originals.

I have been able to cover all of the parishes and townlands within the Baronies of N.E. Liberties of Coleraine, Coleraine, Keenaght, Loughinsholin and Tirkeeran. The exception is the Barony of N.W. Liberties of Londonderry where, with the exception of William Street in the City, only the names of persons listed in each townland or street are given, usually in alphabetical order.

The Excel database is sorted by Record No. which means that it is primarily sorted by Barony, Parish and Townland. The names within each townland, where extra statistical information is included, are sorted by House Nos. The names in the townlands and streeets within the Barony of N.W. Liberties of Londonderry are sorted alphabetically by standardised surnames [except William Street in the City]. This Excel file will allow you to do all sorts of searches and is better for identifying patterns.

The reason why I wanted to sort by House Nos. is that the listing of households in the returns normally follow a geographical order which reflects the route that the enumerators took around a townland or street. Because of this, it is usually possible to match the names in the 1831 Census Returns with the c.1830 Tithe Books in rural areas and the c.1830 Townland Valuation in towns. Note that many of the towns have accompanying valuation maps for the 1830s. Unfortunately this not always the case in rural townlands. Nevertheless, it is often possible to match many of the 1831 names and locations with the 1858/59 Griffith's Printed [Tenement] Valuation and its accompanying maps. This means that for some households you should be able to get some idea of where individual houses and families may have been located within a townland or street in the first half of the nineteenth century. However - a word of warning - it is not a "perfect Science".

Householders listed in the 1831 Census for Co. Londonderry listed by Record No. Excel

I have also included a PDF file which provides an index of names and barony/parish/townland locations within the entire county - sorted by Standardised Surname, Barony, Parish & Townland. With the exception of the Barony of N.W. Liberties of Londonderry, this file also includes the statistical data for each surname.

Note that in 1831 the townlands of Beagh Temporal, Culnagrew, Knockoneill & Swatragh were part of Maghera Parish. By the time of the Griffith's Valuation in 1859 they were part of Killelagh parish.

By the time of the Griffith's Valuation of 1859 a new parish of Carrick had been created consisting of townlands taken from the 1831 parishes of Balteagh, Bovevagh and Tamlaght Finlagan.

By the time of the Griffith's Valuation of 1859 a new parish of Learmount had been created consisting of townlands taken from the 1831 parish of Cumber Upper and the parish of Banagher lying within the Barony of Tirkeeran. The Parish of Banagher in the Barony of Keenaght remained intact.

My Databases
Databases compiled from 19th Century Census Substitutes
Databases compiled from 18th Century Census Subtitutes
Databases compiled from 17th Century Census Subtitutes
Maps & Photos
Copyright 2017 W.Macafee.