My Father’s Family In the 1901 Census of Ireland

Above is a copy of the census return which was filled out by my father’s family when the British government took the Census of Ireland in 1901.  The census lists people who were living in the house as of April 1, 1901.

I had always known that my father’s mother passed away when he was a boy, and he was raised by his grandmother and his father.  That is reflected in the census return: his grandmother, Bridget Nestor, is listed as the “Head of Family.”  It notes that she is a widow and her occupation is farmer.  Her age is given as 74, her birthplace as “County of Clare.”

Everyone else on the census return is listed according to their relationship to Bridget Nestor.  My grandfather, Patrick McNamara, is duly noted to be her son-in-law, a 46-year-old widower.  His occupation is given as coachman.

My father, John McNamara, was listed as the 12-year-old boy on line five (though he was in fact 13 years old in the spring of 1901).  The census return notes that he can read and write.  He is listed as a “scholar,” which is how the census return denotes “children or young persons attending a school, or receiving regular instruction at home.”   The return notes that he could not speak the Irish language, though it notes that his grandmother and his father could speak both English and Irish, as could one of his sisters, Ellie, whose occupation is listed as “teacher.”

My father’s siblings in the 1901 Census are listed as follows: Bridget, Ellie, Annie, Michael, Lizzie, and Teresa.  His sister Mary (whom I would know as “Aunt Minnie”) and his brother Patrick are not listed, but I know from research I conducted using a New Jersey census that my Uncle Pat was already in America in 1901.  And it’s likely that my Aunt Minnie was also living in America when this census was taken in Ireland.

The records in the parish of Quin list two other children, Margaret and Eliza, who are not on the census return.  Margaret and Eliza did not live to adulthood.  Margaret died in 1895, at the age of 11, and it seems that Eliza died soon after birth.

The census return for the household also lists a three-year-old boy, Patrick McNamara, who is enumerated as a “visitor” who was born in Tipperary.  He was no doubt a cousin to the McNamara children, a son of my grandfather’s brother Michael.  That particular Patrick McNamara is known to have been born in 1898.

The 1901 Census provides considerable information about the house my father lived in.  The census takers compiled pages of tables that described dwellings, and by poring through the “House and Building Return” pertaining to Bridget Nestor’s house we can determine that the walls were made of “stone, brick, or concrete,” and the roof was made of “thatch, wood, or other perishable material.”  The British census takers counted the front windows of each house; at that time, taxes were assessed by how many windows someone had in their house.  Bridget Nestor’s house was duly noted to have three front windows.  

The description of the house provided in the 1901 Census matches the photographs of the house which were kept by my Aunt Tessie (six-year-old Teresa on line nine of the census return).

The “House and Building Return” tables also note that the Nestor house, which was inhabited by ten people, had three rooms.  Rounding out the tabulations, the census takers listed the number of  “out-offices or farmsteadings” on each parcel of property.  The Nestor house had three such structures: a stable, a “cow house,” and a piggery.


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