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Searchable form of 1922 military census goes online today

A census cataloguing the Free State Army’s total manpower will go live later this morning.

A SEARCHABLE DATABASE based on a military census from 1922 will be launched online this morning.

The census outlines the full extent of the Free State Army’s manpower during the Irish Civil War, and was held in November 1922 to audit the general state of the National Army at the time.

The census, which came about halfway through the war as the National Army fought against anti-treaty members of the IRA, was conducted in an effort to ascertain precisely how many recruits the army had at its command.

“Without accurate information, headquarters staff could not adequately estimate pay bills, feed, clothe or procure weapons or even determine how many troops they had at their disposal,” said Defence Forces spokesman Commandant Denis Hanly.

The Army Council therefore decided in October 1922 that it would undertake a census, documenting its entire manpower at the stroke of midnight on the morning of Friday 13 November that year.

The census forms recorded the regimental number, rank, corps, name, age, home address, marital status, religion, and next of kin for a total of 33,210 soldiers.

The delicate act of carrying out the census – and the fear that personal data could fall into enemy hands – meant particular security checks were undertaken.

“The Census forms were stamped with an individual number to ensure each form could be accounted for and were distributed to each of the General Officers Commanding,” Commandant Hanly said.

“From this point they were further distributed to each post and outpost where a compiling officer recorded the details of each soldier at that post at midnight on the 12th-13th November.”

The returned forms were later bound into 10 separate volumes.

While original scanned versions of the census forms have been available since last November – in an effort to mark the 90th anniversary of the census being held – a searchable version will be available online later this morning.

Hanly said the Defence Forces hoped to make the documents accessible to all, including those who had ancestors fighting on the pro-Treaty side of the Irish Civil War.

“The census returns are a snapshot of the strength and disposition of the National Army at a specific point in time,” he pointed out.

“They are a valuable source of information on any soldier serving on that night, but the returns cannot account for every soldier that served during the Civil War.”

The census will be accessible at census.militaryarchives.ie from 10am this morning.

About the author:

Gavan Reilly

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