Wexford Religious Censuses of the 19th Century
Two 19th century RC religious censuses survive for Wexford county. They capture the identities of nearly 2,000 people. For researchers in history and genealogy, they are a valuable addition to standard parish records and in some cases contain personal details which would not have been captured otherwise. Historyeye gives a brief survey of what they have to offer the researcher.
Enniscorthy Parish Census
The Enniscorthy Catholic Parish Census was begun on 17/4/1861, possibly running parallel to the National Census of 1861 which had included a question on religious denomination. This religious census may have been taken as back up evidence of a fair and complete return in light of complaints made, especially by the Church of Ireland, that congregation sizes were being reported inaccurately.
The Enniscorthy Parish Census provided names and location of its parishioners. Children’s ages were given too but no ages of adults were provided.
"Gone to Australia"
Occasionally occupations were mentioned. e.g. coachman,mason. There was a column for protestants and one for catholics. Some were recorded as dead. Precious details were also recorded such as “Family in workhouse”, “Gone to Australia” or “Emigrated to Liverpool”. There was also evidence on the pages that the Enniscorthy Census was not taken all at once but gradually, and added to over a number of years in some cases.
Marshalstown Parish Census
The adjoining RC parish of Marshalstown also has a surviving religious census which was taken in 1867. It was started some time after Easter of that year. (April 21st). The census was conducted by Father Andrew O’Farrell c.c. A total of 865 individuals were enumerated. As a note added in front of the record remarked, it would serve as a useful evidential tool for old age pension applicants in the early 20th century. Like the Enniscorthy Census, the Marshalstown Census was arranged by townland. All the individuals enumerated appeared to be RC. At least there were no separate columns for different denominations.
Men, women and children were listed. Small infants were not identified by name in many cases however. Recorded details included name, age and occupation. Frequent remarks were made in the Marshalstown census such as “All Gone away”, “Dead”, “Left Long Time”, “Very delicate”, “Invalid”, “Gone to America”, “Confined to bed”, “Somewhat soft and simple”.
No reason was forthcoming as to why a census was taken in Marshalstown in 1867. Interestingly some entries make reference to a similar census taken in the area in 1917 by a Father Cullen.
The "Slate Range"
There was a certain part of the townland of Mile House which was identified as “The Slate Range”. The Enumerator remarked that it was difficult to establish occupations of inhabitants at this location because they were largely transient and migratory.
One baffling comment made about a particular parishioner of "The Slate Range" stands out. Beside the entry of married mother of three, Mary Ann Dwyer, the priest remarked - “she cannot attend her christian duties being dark”. As a solution he suggested attending to her at her home.
The 19th Century Religious Censuses for Wexford are available to view on the National Library’s RC Parish Register website under the following links.