Monday, June 14, 2010

1901 Census - Francis Ledwidge

The National Archives have just put the 1901 Census details online. This means that as with the 1911 Census you can search the whole country for persons whose details were recorded on that night and view the actual census form which was filled in on 31 March 1901.

Interesting to search for famous figures. W B Yeats doesn't seem to have been in the country for either census, in London dreaming about the Lake Isle I suppose.

Meath poet Francis Ledwidge was at home both dates though and his census forms are very interesting. Ledwidge's father died when Francis was four. In 1901 his older brother Patrick is at home given as a commercial clerk - unemployed. He had contracted TB and had come home from his job in Dublin. By 1911 Patrick is dead. Francis gives his occupation in 1911 as author - poetry and his age as 20 though he was a year or two older in fact.

Ledwidge's mother's age is interesting, 45 in 1901 but 70 in 1911. Ages in these census records are unreliable since at the time people often did not know their real age. Also the fact that old age pensions had been introduced in 1909 may have had something to do with it.

Francis' older brother Thomas appears in both records, as an imbecile in 1901 and as an idiot in 1911. The use of these terms sounds barbaric to us now but they were in effect technical terms then in use as you can see from the heading of the column in which they were entered.

Hours of interest browsing such a vast resource. Ledwidge's poem about his mother here.


AquaMarina said...

thanks for this very interesting post Michael. I didn't even know these censuses were available, so I've been on today and tracked down my grandad's family in Mayo - thank you!

Michael Farry said...

Yes they are a great source for family history. One of my grandfathers also came from Mayo.

Peter Goulding said...

My wife has Ledwidges in Dublin going back and we found them in 1901 and 1911. One was an opera singer William Ledwidge, who went by the name Wilhelm Ludwig (he's mentioned in Ulysses)He was born in 1847 and his father was a music teacher. We were amazed to find him still alive in Dublin in 1901.