Genealogy in Northern Ireland: Early Census Substitutes

By David A. Fryxell Premium

Q. I’ve hit a brick wall with my Northern Ireland ancestors before 1800. What resources can I try?
A. Several census substitutes can help you find pre-1800 families, according to the Ulster Historical Foundation. Indexes and originals for most are available through the Public Records Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI):
Hearth money rolls: Returns for this 1660s tax on hearths are arranged by parish and list householders who paid. Surviving records cover Northern Ireland better than the rest of Ireland.
Census of Protestant householders: Not a true census, this 1740 enumeration by the collectors of the hearth tax lists names arranged by county, barony and parish.
Religious census of 1766: Church of Ireland rectors enumerated inhabitants by religion: Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic (identified as “Papists”) and Presbyterians (“Dissenters”). Some rectors simply counted heads; others listed households. The original returns have been destroyed, but transcriptions survive in the Tenison Groves Papers, available on Family History Library microfilm and on
Petition of Protestant Dissenters: This list of dissenters’ names was submitted to the government in 1775; PRONI has transcriptions. You can search an index covering the 1740, 1766 and 1775 databases at PRONI; results reference the original records.
Flaxgrowers List: In 1796, the government awarded free spinning wheels or looms to farmers who planted a minimum acreage of flax. PRONI has lists of more than 56,000 recipients. Search an index at the Ulster Historical Foundation website.
From the January/February 2015 Family Tree Magazine