The strange afterlife of the census microfilms

The method used by the National Archives of Ireland to digitise its genealogical records was sensible and straightforward. It took the existing microfilms (all created by the LDS Church) as the starting point and used digital images created from the microfilms as the basis of transcription and to provide an online copy of the original.

So far so good.

The first result is that the online collections include any flaws in the microfilms. For instance, the 1901 microfilms omitted the reverse of all Form As, which contain useful place-name identifiers, and so these are missing from the online image collection. Or areas missed by the microfilm team  – Ramelton Road in Letterkenny – are still offline only.

The second result is that it is possible to use the online image collections as if they were microfilm, scrolling forward and back through them in sequence.

The famous

How do you do this? In your browser address-bar, you’ll see something like “”. Just add 1 to that number to go forward a frame and subtract 1 to go back.

But the real question is why in the name of all that’s holy would anyone want to treat these image collections as if they were microfilm? Haven’t we spent half our lives praying for an escape from microfilm?

We don’t get away that easy. Just one example: the 1911 finding aid used to oversee the transcriptions included a category “Townland”. Many enumerators’ returns for small, single-street villages left the townland name blank and entered the name under “City, Urban District, Town or Village”. But where the finding aid left the townland blank, the transcribers presumed there were no returns and left it untranscribed. So around forty smallish villages are imaged online, but not findable by searching the 1911 database of transcripts.

The only way to research them is by going to the initial image and scrolling through them by hand. Precisely as if you were at one of those blasted microfilm machines.

So now you know why you couldn’t find Ballaghdereen and Moate and Kinvara in 1911.

Below is a table of the omissions I know of, with a link to the initial file. Let me know if you come across more.

Untranscribed in 1911, but imaged online

County Start file DED Name Comment
CORK nai002025430 Myross
CORK nai002026380 Crookhaven
DONEGAL nai002096139 Moville
DOWN nai002248323 Rosstrevor
GALWAY nai002405276 Kinvarra Kinvara town
GALWAY nai002456942 Headford Headford town
GALWAY nai002441621 Portumna Portumna town
GALWAY nai002370022 Sillerna
GALWAY nai002423570 Killeroran Ballygar town
GALWAY nai002423611 Killeroran Ballygar town
GALWAY nai002426479 Mount Bellew Mount Bellew Demesne
KERRY nai002499945 Tarbert
KILDARE nai002561153 Graney Castledermot town
KILDARE nai002562371 Donaghcumper Clonoghlis
KILDARE nai002560339 Ballitore Ballitore Town
KILDARE nai002570290 Rathangan Rathangan village
KILDARE nai002561729 Celbridge Entire DED
MAYO nai002951079 Bunaveela
QUEEN’S CO. nai003161018 Vicarstown
ROSCOMMON nai003185940 Ballaghadereen Ballaghadereen town
ROSCOMMON nai003226133 Cloontuskert Lanesboro town
ROSCOMMON nai003218186 Croghan Croghan village
TIPPERARY nai003368519 Mullinahone Mullinahone town
TIPPERARY nai003360703 Kilbarron Ballinderry town
TIPPERARY nai003365169 Terryglass Terryglass town
TIPPERARY nai003316315 Ballina
TIPPERARY nai003381603 Killenaule Killenaule town
TYRONE nai003434634 Stewartstown Stewartstown village, West Street
TYRONE nai003436854 Moy Moy village
WATERFORD nai003957523 Kilwatermoy, West Janeville
WATERFORD nai003479421 Courmaraglin
WATERFORD nai003510696 Faithlegg Cheekpoint village
WATERFORD nai003481043 Dromana Villierstown
WATERFORD nai003511636 Killea Dunmore village
WATERFORD nai003475372 Dungarvan No. 1 Urban Part of Mitchel Street
WESTMEATH nai003525104 Moate Moate town
WESTMEATH nai003525164 Moate Moate town
WESTMEATH nai003525203 Moate Moate town
WESTMEATH nai003525665 Moate Moate town
WESTMEATH nai003554911 Kilbeggan Kilbeggan town
WEXFORD nai003574228 Castle Talbot
WICKLOW nai003641691 Glendalough All of Glendalough DED missing

Untranscribed in 1901, but imaged online

County Start file DED Name Comment
TIPPERARY nai003916050 Clonmel West Huge chunk missing
[This post was originally published in March 2016, but got washed away in the Great Delete of June 2016. Joe Buggy wanted it back, so it's his fault. Paddy Waldron continues to unearth other missing returns at Rootschat.]

18 thoughts on “The strange afterlife of the census microfilms”

  1. Crookhaven didn’t work for me, John. I’m working on that area so it would have been handy. Haven’t had time to try anything else. Doubtless, I’m doing something wrong.

  2. At the following was the result for my search.

    Death results for Julia McAuliffe from ? / ? / 1948 to ? / ? / 1948
    No results found.

    However, at both FamilySearch and Ancestry I found the following citations.

    Name: Julia Mcauliffe
    Event Type: Death
    Event Date: Oct – Dec 1948
    Event Place: Cork, Ireland
    Registration Quarter and Year: Oct – Dec 1948
    Registration District: Cork
    Age: 81
    Birth Year (Estimated): 1867
    Volume Number: 5
    Page Number: 91

    Name: Julia McAuliffe
    Estimated Birth Year: abt 1867
    Date of Registration: 1948 – Oct-Nov-Dec[1948]
    Death Age: 81
    Registration district: Cork
    Volume: 5
    Page: 91
    FHL Film Number: 101744

    I emailed the GRO for help again and received this response.

    “Have you checked for her birth details, the registers start in 1864 and are all online here.  Also, was she married?  Is McAuliffe her birth name or married name?  The death registers often only show the married name.  You can always send a request for a copy certificate to the General Register Office, see They can examine the details you submit and check against the original books, if necessary.”

    Moving from knowns to unknowns, I knew that she was born, baptized, married and bore children. Therefore, I knew she had to died at some point. Julia’s grandson wrote that she died in late October 1948 in Cork City. I searched at trying to browse for Julia’s, McAuliffe’s, and 81 year-olds. No results, although a Mary McAuliffe, 81 died in July.

    Searching at FamilySearch I decided that I wanted to try to find the seven other people registered on the page with Julia in Volume 5 Page 91 from 1948. I was able to restrict my searches to look at 1948 only. I looked for 4Q deaths only and then opened the index citation to see what page they appeared on. After about 5 minutes I found George Nicholson, 0, Volume 5, Page 91, Cork.

    I looked up this little boy at and found his citation

    Name: George NICHOLSON
    Year of Death: 1948
    Group Registration ID: 2444587
    SR District/Reg Area: Cork
    Deceased Age at Death: 0


    Clicking on the Image button took me to page 91. At number 432 was George Nicholson. Just below his entry at number 433 was Julia McAuliffe, 1948 twenty-seventh October, Cork District Hospital, Julia McAuliffe, late of 280 Blarney Street, F, widow, 81 years, widow of labourer, cardiac 1 year, 8 months, 3 days in hospital certified. 280 Blarney Street is the address that Julia’s daughter-in-law, Christina, had died at in 1947. This was a good find.

    I shared my success with the GRO.

  3. DED OF Bunaveela in mayo is missing in 1911, 10 Townlands as follows Bunaveela, Fiddaunnageeroge, Glendavoolagh, Goulaun, Keenagh More, Leamadartaun, Lettertrask, Tawnynahulty, Tubbrid Beg, Tubbrid More

    as method of locating them would be great espically Keenagh More

  4. This is one of those tricks that has proved extremely useful to me over the year. I do the same when looking for people I know should have their bmds on Irish Genealogy (I had to do it just yesterday for a woman who I had the obit and burial reg for but her death cert was showing an image from the wrong page, so I worked back through the pages as I had the right date for her and there she was)

  5. I sure would like to see some Limerick and Mayo records/images on line. I don’t mind scrolling and I do love all the shortcuts folks are providing. Keep up the good work.


  6. I’m looking for Kilduffahoo/Doon on 1911 census without success. Any assistance in locating the records for this townland would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Hi John – I’m transcribing my family’s surviving census records (Belmullet, County Mayo) and trying to citations along the way. So are these technically not microfilms? Or are there microfilm numbers I should use, along with the image numbers? Thank you!

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