The censuses for England and Wales were taken every ten years. The years released to the public include: 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911. These are scanned and online on two major subscription databases; www.ancestry.com and www.findmypast.co.uk They are also indexed on www.familysearch.org with links to the Findmypast website. They make a wonderful tool for hunting down Irish immigrants.
While usually, the censuses will simply say “Ireland” as the place of birth, sometimes, they actually provide county and parish of birth. Two of my favorites are the 1841 and 1851 enumerations. These are important as they are pre and post Potato Famine. My rule of thumb is that if a family had immigrated by 1841 they left for reasons other than hunger, and they had enough money to leave. In short, they were not always among the poor of the poor. The story in 1851 was different. It was towards the end of the Potato Famine, and massive migration was still underway. Both tell the story of very different migrations out of Ireland.
Now continuing with my examples, there’s some quirks you need to be aware of in 1841 schedule. In that census, only “I” is listed for Ireland and nothing else for birthplace. Always double check that with a later census to make sure the census taker was accurate. Other quirks include relationships not being provided, and the age of individuals older than 15 years being rounded down to the nearest five years. When you compare this with 1851, a clearer picture emerges. Both Ancestry and Findmypast have helpful guides to the censuses, including a listing of census areas known to be missing from the 1841 collection.
With the censuses so readily available at the fingertips, it’s an exciting time to be a family historian!