Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Finding 'lost' children: Revisiting the 1901 & the 1911 Irish Census

For those whose ancestors were a part of the generations for whom there is an account in the Irish census records of 1901 and 1911, it may prove a useful exercise to revisit these materials if you are in search of 'lost' children. This post thoroughly details my own search for lost children on my family tree, and includes the following four individual family units: BALL (father: Francis, mother: Jane Early), FITZPATRICK (father: Thomas, mother: Mary Hynes), GERAGHTY (father: Patrick, mother: Margaret Toole), and MAGEE (father: Patrick, mother: Mary Dunne).

The snapshot of family life recorded on the 1911 Irish census is much more developed than that which is revealed in the 1901 census. In 1911, for the first time, a woman was required by law to indicate the number of years she had been married, as well as the number of children born alive to her, and the number still living in 1911.

The inclusion of the extra information in 1911 is valuable because it reveals exactly how many members were born live in a specific family, and those recorded numbers may help us to find 'lost' children. 

A comparison between the 1901 and 1911 census materials on which their families appeared is the first step in finding these lost children.

In the case of the Fitzpatrick family, who had moved to Liverpool, England, before the 1901 Irish census was taken, I used the 1901 U.K. census as well. With the census records as a 'jumping off point', I was able to use other documentary evidence, and ultimately found out what happened to all of the children.

WHAT IS IN THE NUMBERS? Looking first at the 1911 Census, here is what the numbers tell us about these four families:

BALL: Jane Ball gave birth to 5 children; 3 were alive in 1911.

FITZPATRICK: Mary Fitzpatrick gave birth to 7 children; 5 were alive in 1911.

GERAGHTY: Margaret Geraghty gave birth to 9 children; on the 1911 census, while 9 children are reported alive, only 7 names are listed.

MAGEE: Mary Magee gave birth to 5 children; 4 were alive in 1911.

For each family listed below, click on the year links, highlighted in blue, to view the census record for that particular family. Click on the blue post links for further details and stories of some of these lost children.


BALL:                1901 Irish Census           1911 Irish Census

Missing child: Francis:

In 1901, Francis Ball is 7 years old, the youngest child in his family which at this point includes 3 other siblings. Francis is named after his father. By 1911 both Francis and his father no longer appear on the census. His mother is described as a widow, so we know his father is dead by 1911 — in fact, Francis Ball senior died in 1909 — but was their son Francis also deceased? Sadly, the answer is yes. In this post I detail my research on the life and death of young Francis Ball.

Missing child: Jane:

Baby Jane Ball appears on neither the 1901 nor the 1911 census, but she is accounted for in the numbers. Jane Ball was born in the years before the taking of the 1901 census, specifically in 1888, and she died only 15 months later. For the census record keepers of 1891 and 1901, it was as though this little child never existed. If not for the numbers in the 1911 census, I would have never recovered her.  In this post, I recount my discovery of the little baby girl named Jane.


FITZPATRICK:          1911 Irish Census

Missing child: Joseph:

In the 1901 U.K. census 1 Joseph Mark Fitzpatrick is 5 years old, the middle child in a family which at this point includes 2 other siblings, his elder sister Mary Angela and younger brother Thomas Andrew. By 1911 his brother and sister are still alive, but he is unaccounted for. What happened to him? Sadly, as I detail in this account, little Joseph Fitzpatrick died in Liverpool in November of 1901. This post gives an account of the sad and unsettling details of his interment.

Missing child: Alice

Another Fitzpatrick child appears in the numbers on the 1911 Irish census documents, but is on neither the 1901 UK census nor the 1911 Irish census. In order to find this child, I looked at the dates of birth of all of his/her siblings, and noticed two significant gaps in the years of birth between some of them. The first gap is between the birth of Joseph Mark Fitzpatrick in Ireland in 1895 and that of his brother Thomas Andrew Fitzpatrick in Liverpool in 1899. The second gap is between the birth of  John Fitzpatrick in Liverpool in 1901 and Leo Fitzpatrick in Dublin in 1905 2. Such gaps offer a starting point in the search for the missing child.

The gap was filled in with my discovery of the birth of Alice. Born in Dublin on 3 December 1903, Alice was practically a Christmas baby, and after a series of brothers, finally a baby sister for eldest child Mary Angela. Any joy that might have come to the family over the birth of Alice was short-lived. Alice died on 10 November 1904, aged 11 months. 


GERAGHTY:               1901 Census          1911 Census

Missing child: Mary: 

In 1901, Mary Geraghty is the second born child, and first born daughter, and is 13 years old. She has one elder brother and six younger siblings all of whom are listed on the 1911 census. Why is Mary missing from the 1911 census? Had she married? Where was she living? Also, I knew my paternal grandfather had a sister named Helen who lived in the United States, but where is an account of her on these census records?

It turned out that the answer to this puzzle is very simple, Mary and Helen are in fact the same person. Finding her record of civil registration was no help, since her parents had not yet named their daughter, but her record of baptism revealed all. Mary was born on 28 July 1887, and was baptized with the name Maria Helen Geraghty at the Church of St. James, Dublin, on 7 August 1887.

Certified transcription of Mary Helen Geraghty's baptismal certificate. Church of St. James, 2011.
So why the confusion? As she grew into adulthood, Mary Helen no longer used her given forename of Mary. Instead, she used only her middle name Helen, so she was known to some members of the later generations in the family as Helen.  

Despite the fact that in everyday life Mary used her middle name Helen as her forename, her legal birth name would have to appear on official documents, such as a passport, so I searched for Mary using her entire first name, and I found her.

By the time of the 1911 census, Mary Helen was no longer living in Ireland. She was the only member of her family of origin to emigrate out of Ireland to the United States. In 1909, at the age of 22, Mary Helen Geraghty immigrated to the United States of America. She sailed from Liverpool on 2 October 1909 onboard the SS Campania, arriving at the Port of New York on 9 October 1909. Her final destination is given as Cleveland Ohio, but there is no indication as to why she is going there.

Interestingly, the manifest entry indicates that Mary Helen had no profession, so she wasn't heading to the United States for work. This appears to be a marker of 'chain-migration', in other words, Mary Helen may have been headed to the home of a relative or family friend who had already immigrated. The second page of the manifest reveals more details, and in fact tells us that Mary Helen is headed to the home of her cousin, one Mrs. P. J. Moran of 1548 East 27th Street, Cleveland, Ohio. The manifest even tells us that Mary Helen is 5'9" tall, with a "fresh face, fair hair and grey eyes",  and carrying £25 with her. The name of Mary Helen's father Patrick Geraghty, and the family home address of 7 Bow Bridge, Dublin, are noted on the far right of the entry below.

Page one of the Manifest on which the details for passenger #18 Mary Helen Geraghty appear.
Mary Helen's name is incorrectly recorded as Mary Ellen; however, all of the other details,
including her father's name and the family home address, match exactly.
(FindMyPast.co.uk, 2011.)
The other child for whom there is no account on the 1911 census record for the Geraghty family home is Patrick. My granduncle Patrick went on to become a professor at University College Cork, so I know he was definitely alive and well in 1911. Given that he celebrated his 20th birthday shortly before the census was taken, he may have been away at university when the census was taken; however,  I have to find evidence in order to precisely pin down his exact location.

MAGEE:               1901 Census          1911 Census

In 1901 the Magee family has two children, Anne Mary and Michael Francis. Those two children along with two others, Mary Catherine (called Mollie) and Francis Leo (called Frank), were alive and  are accounted for on the 1911 census; however, there was one child about whom there is no account on either the 1901 or 1911 census, except in the numbers, so who was this fifth child?

Missing child: Patrick William:

Again, I looked for a gap in the birth dates of the siblings in order to find the fifth child born to the Magee family. The pattern of births in the Magee family revealed that on average there was a child born about every 18 months. With Michael born in 1896 and his sister Anne born in 1900, there was a wide gap of 4 years within which to search, and it was in that gap that I found Patrick William.

Patrick William was born 13 July 1898, baptized 25 July 1898, and died 22 Feb 1900. At the time of his death, Patrick William's mother Mary was in the first trimester of her pregnancy with baby Anne. The sad fact of high infant mortality in the 19th and early 20th century in Ireland meant many Irish families might have had the same experience, the burying of one child while the mother was pregnant with another.



1. Online, the 1901 UK census can only be accessed through paid sites, so I cannot include the link here. If you have access to a paid site, and wish to check the record, the Fitzpatrick family lived at 368 Great Howard Street, in the borough of North Scotland, in the Parish of St. Aidan, in the city of Liverpool, in the county of Lancashire, in the country of England.

2. In looking for gaps I used the information on the registrations of birth and the baptismal records for the other children, since the ages given on census records are not always accurate.

Click on images to view larger versions.
(Some of the content in this post previously appeared in 2010, 2011 and 2014.)


  1. Jennifer,

    I want to let you know that your blog is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/02/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-february-28.html

    Have a fantastic weekend!

    1. Thanks so very much Jana! What a lovely surprise!

      Cheers to you,

  2. beautifully researched Jennifer! and so clearly explained for others to follow

    1. Thanks very much Pauleen! I hope others find it helpful.

      Cheers to you,


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Cheers, Jennifer

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