The Index to the 1851 Dublin census is an excellent source for anyone researching Dublin city during the mid-nineteenth century. Providing the names and addresses of approximately 59,000 heads of household, it was compiled by Dr D A Chart around 1910 using the original 1851 census returns.


The 1901 and 1911 censuses are the only complete surviving census returns for Ireland; those compiled between 1813 – 1891 were either destroyed by government order, or during the civil war in 1922, leaving researchers of nineteenth century Ireland reliant on 'census substitutes.'

Two commonly used census substitutes are Griffith’s Valuation and the Tithe Applotment Books – official documents recording the value of land or property held by individuals for the purposes of taxation. These work well as substitutes where there is one family per property and where the family resides at that property, which was generally the case in rural areas. However, they don’t document the residence of the individual which is problematic for the researcher of urban areas, particularly Dublin City, where it was common for people to live in tenements – buildings divided into apartments with two or more families per property. In these cases, sources such as Griffith’s Valuation only mention one main occupier (the official rate payer), so it is impossible to know all the families that lived in a particular building.

Dr D A Chart’s index of heads of households in Dublin City, 1851 is therefore an extremely valuable source to the researcher of individuals living in Dublin in the mid-nineteenth century. Listing the names of the heads of each distinct household, it provides the searcher with far more information than could be gleaned from Griffith’s Valuation which was published within the same period.

About the Index

The index is based on information extracted from the 1851 census which was conducted on 30th March 1851, with policemen acting as enumerators. The catalogue, prepared by Dr Chart, was subsequently used not just by historians and genealogists; it was also helpful in substantiating old age pension applications where the birth records were inadequate. This semi-official use of the index is referred to in the 47 PRO DK Report of 1915 which states that "the census returns of 1851 have been useful in furnishing proof of age".

The Source

Dr Chart’s index was handwritten, and consists of two hardbound volumes: North Dublin City and South Dublin City. The index is held in the National Archives of Ireland (CEN 1851/18/1-2). Chart created the indexes by extracting information from Form B of the 1851 census, and arranging it by Civil Parish. He listed each street located in that civil parish, and then the name of each householder in that street. So, anyone using the original indexes would have to have an idea of the street in which the individual they were researching lived, or else go through all 60,000 entries trying to find it. Also, the volumes themselves are in a relatively poor condition; the spine of the Dublin South volume is damaged and some of the pages within it are loose.

Seán Magee developed the online version of the index which is easier to use than the original. It also ensures that further damage to the original index will be avoided.

What information is included in the Index?

  • all heads of household
  • where a head of household is absent, another family member is also mentioned
  • people working in key Dublin institutions. These include hospitals (The Rotunda, Meath and Richmond); barracks (the Royal, Richmond and Arbour Hill); prisons (the Richmond Bridewell and Grangegorman); workhouses;the Bank of Ireland; Trinity College Dublin; the Royal Dublin Society; the Dublin House of Industry and Jury’s Hotel

Which areas of Dublin are covered?

The index covers 21 civil parishes within central Dublin:

South Dublin Parishes (33,565 entries – 56.9% of population)St. AudeonSt. AndrewSt. AnneSt. BridgetSt. CatherineSt. JamesSt. JohnSt. LukeSt. MarkSt. MichaelSt. Nicholas WithinSt. Nicholas WithoutSt. Patrick's DeanerySt. PeterSt. WerburghNorth Dublin Parishes (25,429 entries – 43.1% of population)St. GeorgeSt. MarySt. MichanSt. PaulSt. ThomasGrange Gorman

Interpreting information in the census

It is interesting to note that family members who were absent that day were still included in the census; the heads of 91 households are described as ‘absent’ or ‘away’ at the time. In a third of such cases, a woman’s name has been provided in the index, either a wife or a female relative.

Others are described as ‘gone away’ which is a much broader term – it can refer to people who have emigrated, moved to the Poorhouse or gone to sea.

'Removed' is yet another term you might come across, and which was used even more ambiguously – it could refer to a change of address, emigration or admittance to hospital, for instance. Such information can be useful if you are tracing a family that emigrated around this time.

Particularly significant is the fact that 26.3% of households (15,500 households) recorded a female head. This figure includes the small number of cases where the husband was absent. This suggests that in mid-19th century Dublin, women had a relative amount of economic freedom, though the destruction of the census means that it is impossible to tell what percentage of these women worked for a living.