1861 Census: Decline in the Population of Ireland
(Famine, Disease and Emigration)

From Thom's Almanac and Official Directory, 1862

Decline of the population in Ireland.—The people of Ireland in 1851 proved to be 1,622,739 less numerous than in 1841, a diminution commonly attributed to the famine consequent on the potato failure in 1845 and subsequent years. The mortality of that period having been concentrated in workhouses and temporary hospitals, and having ravaged some portions of the country, in which disease prevailed with extraordinary virulence, the great loss of population has been usually accounted for by estimating the deaths generally according to their extent in the severely visited localities; but the Mortality Returns, founded on the Census of 1851, show that the deaths from 1841 were not, in the aggregate, excessive. In the emigration to America, migration to Great Britain, and the decrease of births, the causes of decline are to be found.

Of the children living in 1841 and 1851, the Census of each period supplies the following totals of the number born within twelve months preceding :—

1841 1851
Leinster 46,348 34,451
Munster 61,389 34,653
Ulster 57,466 42,875
Connaught 37,263 20,613
TOTAL 202,466 132,592

The decrease of children living in 1851, aged from one month to a year, was, as compared with the enumeration of 1841, so much as 69,874; and the decline in the number of births was operating from 1841.

Of children living in 1841 and 1851, aged from 1 to 9 years, the Census Reports contain the following enumerations, which show a decrease between 1841 and 1851, of 585,322: —

1841 1851
Born in 1840 158,958 Born in 1850 106,192
Born in 1839 230,804 Born in 1849 141,638
Born in 1838 218,149 Born in 1848 118,271
Born in 1837 219,148 Born in 1847 145,678
Born in 1836 216,888 Born in 1846 152,206
Born in 1835 218,688 Born in 1845 161,803
Born in 1834 221,712 Born in 1844 165,426
Born in 1833 222,504 Born in 1843 170,081
Born in 1832 196,413 Born in 1842 156,647
TOTAL
1,903,264 1,317,942

Until 1847, emigration did not materially reduce the population. In that year 215,444 persons emigrated to America and the Colonies, being more than double the number of the emigrants in 1846. In the ten years, from June, 1841, to March, 1851, there emigrated 1,240,737 persons, which materially lessened the number of children to be enumerated in 1851; but this only in part accounts for the great diminution of births after 1841.

The Census Report for 1851 contains a Table showing that if births had taken place in the ratio of 1 to 31 of the population, annually, as in England (without an emigration), the number of children born in Ireland from 1841 to 1851 would have been 2,711,814; and the population in the latter year would have been 9,018,799, instead of 6,552,885. In this calculation, allowance is made for 1,868,139 deaths; estimating the mortality in the ratio of 1 to 45 of the population in each year; and the births would have thus exceeded the deaths by 843,675.

The actual number of deaths from 1841 to 1851, as ascertained in making the Census, amounted to 1,361,051, and the deaths from extraordinary causes did not amount to one third of this total, thus :—

Deaths from Fever 222,029 Dysentry and Diarrhoea 134,555 Total 414,343
Cholera 35,989 Starvation 21,770

A large proportion of the deaths from such causes occurred in the years of famine, and the mortality in those years was, therefore, excessive; but the total for ten years is not in excess of the ordinary ratio of deaths, even in a declining population, taking the mean of the numbers of the people in 1841 and 1851.

The Census of 1861 gives the population as 5,764,543, being 787,842 less than that of 1851, or a decrease of 12.02 per cent, in the last ten years. During this period as many as 1,163,418 persons emigrated from Ireland. 

NUMBER of EMIGRANTS who left each County in Ireland, from the 1st of May, 1851, to the 31st of December, 1860.  (Please note that you can adjust the magnification of the table by clicking on the `view' option on your browser and selecting a larger text size). 

Provinces
and
Counties
Number of Emigrants who left each County in Ireland, from 1st May, 1851, to the 31st of December, 1860
Proportion
per
cent.
of the
Population
of 1851
who
left each county
Number of Emigrants No. of Emigrants
from
1st May, 1851,
to 31st Dec., 1860
1851-52* 1853 1854 1855 1856 1857 1858 1859 1860 Males Females Total
LEINSTER
Carlow 4,078 1,743 1,593 743 642 629 435 376 400 5,308 5,331 10,639 15.63
Dublin 7,210 2,486 2,332 1,963 2,043 1,436 2,052 2,708 2,966 12,844 12,352 25,196 6.22
Kildare 4,495 2,206 1,625 797 563 734 517 651 589 6,430 5,747 12,177 12.72
Kilkenny 11,412 6,394 4,438 2,756 2,037 2,098 1,315 1,514 1,784 17,037 16,711 33,748 21.26
King's 8,178 3,499 2,747 1,341 1,017 1,049 873 938 1,225 10,334 10,533 20,867 18.62
Longford 5,985 2,338 1,657 629 718 941 524 758 884 7,165 7,269 14,434 17.53
Louth 5,871 3,265 2,192 1,175 1,005 1,083 590 763 960 8,093 8,811 16,904 15.70
Meath 9,077 4,227 2,901 1,310 1,196 1,385 803 1,009 1,225 11,460 11,673 23,133 16.44
Queen's 8,165 3,492 2,661 1,016 1,003 836 509 947 1,101 9,926 9,804 19,730 17.67
Westmeath 7,156 3,062 2,198 1,039 1,195 970 688 923 1,155 9,491 8,895 18,386 16.50
Wexford 10,004 5,282 3,987 1,808 1,442 1,726 1,086 750 879 13,819 13,145 26,964 14.97
Wicklow 3,928 2,599 1,268 873 419 595 769 504 198 5,808 5,345 11,153 11.27
Total 85,559 40,593 29,599 15,450 13,280 13,482 10,161 11,841 13,366 117,715 115,616 233,331 13.95
MUNSTER
Clare 18,291 8,280 7,410 3,387 2,621 3,034 2,254 1,921 2,485 23,065 26,618 49,683 23.39
Cork 36,089 21,576 18,944 13,943 15,756 14,359 7,263 7,586 10,906 72,432 73,990 146,422 22.55
Kerry 17,625 10,448 7,283 4,164 4,364 4,348 1,586 1,877 2,788 26,438 28,045 54,483 22.87
Limerick 21,842 10,081 8,798 3,702 4,048 3,498 2,653 2,840 4,178 29,263 32,377 61,640 23.51
Tipperary 28,503 14,130 11,391 5,573 4,560 5,170 2,890 3,423 4,579 39,513 40,706 80,219 24.19
Waterford 9,419 6,527 5,848 3,277 3,156 3,318 1,857 2,068 2,492 20,807 17,155 37,962 23.14
Total 131,769 71,042 59,674 34,046 34,505 33,727 18,503 19,715 27,428 211,518 218,891 430,409 23.17
ULSTER
Antrim 8,120 5,316 4,425 6,178 7,967 9,514 9,757 15,375 8,877 41,272 34,257 75,529 21.44
Armagh 5,405 3,194 2,914 3,385 3,156 3,093 2,695 2,987 2,228 15,856 13,201 29,057 14.82
Cavan 11,500 5,782 4,149 2,462 2,507 3,110 1,574 2,332 2,724 17,756 18,384 36,140 20.76
Donegal 12,137 5,746 4,672 3,882 3,314 2,283 1,840 2,293 1,774 20,465 17,476 37,941 14.87
Down 5,971 4,622 4,250 5,155 4,897 6,129 5,633 6,760 3,818 28,132 19,103 47,235 14.37
Fermanagh 4,991 2,212 2,056 1,619 1,449 1,615 844 951 1,420 8,889 8,268 17,157 14.78
Londonderry 6,418 3,489 2,953 2,984 2,660 2,438 2,267 2,338 1,964 14,838 12,673 27,511 14.33
Monaghan 7,759 3,980 2,892 2,020 2,238 2,192 1,586 1,979 1,871 13,786 12,731 26,517 18.70
Tyrone 9,146 5,543 3,902 3,922 3,634 3,799 2,983 3,135 3,114 20,724 18,454 39,178 15.32
Total 71,447 39,884 32,213 31,607 31,822 34,173 29,179 38,150 27,790 181,718 154,547 336,265 16.71
CONNAUGHT
Galway 18,006 8,867 7,578 3,158 2,516 3,241 2,163 2,468 2,356 24,615 25,738 50,353 15.65
Leitrim 5,051 2,122 1,791 1,190 1,365 1,414 788 1,235 1,472 8,593 7,835 16,428 14.68
Mayo 11,627 4,208 3,229 2,140 1,444 1,695 1,222 1,559 1,756 14,275 14,605 28,880 10.52
Roscommon 10,439 4,151 3,616 1,625 1,746 1,550 985 1,557 1,654 13,781 13,542 27,323 15.75
Sligo 4,176 1,962 1,612 1,161 881 1,154 602 645 934 6,267 6,860 13,127 10.21
Total 49,299 21,310 17,826 9,274 7,952 9,054 5,760 7,464 8,172 67,531 68,580 136,111 13.48
Not stated 4,308 319 1,243 1,537 3,222 4,645 734 3,429 7,865 15,900 11,402 27,302
Total 342,382 173,148 140,555 91,914 90,781 95,081 64,337 80,599 84,621 594,382 569,036 1,163,418 17.75

* The Emigration for 1851-52 is given for the last nine months of the year 1851, and the entire year of 1852

See also Census of Ireland (1821, 1831, and 1841 compared)

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