Launch of Carrick-on-Suir Census, 1799

The Irish Genealogical Research Society is launching a new database, adding to its growing library of online resources. The database’s material is taken from a census – or statistical survey – of the Co. Tipperary town of Carrick-on-Suir. It was compiled in 1799 and notes vital biographical details about the town’s entire population; people from all walks of life, both Catholic and Protestant, numbering just under 11,000.

Nick Reddan

The original manuscript was compiled by Lieutenant-Colonel William Morton Pitt of the Dorset Militia, a member of parliament at Westminster representing Dorset constituencies from 1780 to 1826. Pitt was assisted in compiling the census by local men Francis White and Patrick Lynch. Its purpose isn’t clear, but it seems likely to be connected with Pitt’s unsuccessful attempt to gain preferment as a commissioner of the Irish union from his relative and namesake, William Pitt, the Prime Minister

The original manuscript is now held by the British Library, London. Arranged by street, it comprises data on 1,738 homes and 10,907 individuals. In 1912 there was a call in an archeological journal for the manuscript to be edited for publication. A similar call was published again in the IGRS’ own journal in 1975. Neither succeeded and the manuscript remained in obscurity. .

Finally, a further forty years later, the digital age has allowed the IGRS to make this valuable resource available online. The database is the work of the Society’s Fellow and webmaster, Nick Reddan, who is based in Australia. Noted from the original manuscript, it records the names of all the inhabitants, giving for each their sex, age, occupation, religion, address and, where relevant, marital status.

A sample page from the manuscript showing details for Thomas Flaherty, aged 47, a carpenter, and his wife, Joan, aged 45, a huckster

In launching this new resource, IGRS chairman Steven Smyrl said: “The story of the destruction of Ireland’s 19th-century census records is a sad tale of poor decisions made by both government officials and civil war insurgents. It’s not always appreciated that Ireland’s nominal census enumerations began two decades before the rest of the United Kingdom, and they were more detailed, too. Yet bureaucratic bungling and shortsightedness by civil war combatants saw that little of it has survived. Thus, gems like the 1799 census substitute for the town of Carrick-on-Suir are a rarity that needs to be carefully preserved and given the widest possible public exposure. Pitt’s manuscript is unusual for being so extensive and this has proved to be the reason it has taken until now to put it in the public domain.

Nick Reddan’s careful work in transcribing this material has ensured it will now, finally, be easily accessible online to answer queries regarding the lives of the people of Carrick-on-Suir living over 200 years ago.”    

The Society acknowledges with thanks the kind permission of the British Library to publish the data contained in the Pitt manuscript.

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