The agricultural census of 1803

Most information is listed in various categories of livestock and dead stock...

During a scare in 1803 about a French invasion of Ireland, resulting from the planned but abortive insurrection of that year, similar returns were made under the same legislation, which, after the Act of Union, applied to Ireland.

The surviving returns relate to many parishes in County Down and the northern parishes of County Antrim. The returns for County Down were made to the 1st Marquess of Londonderry. Presumably he received returns for each parish, although it is clear from those which have survived that there was considerable variation in their content.

Most information is listed in various categories of livestock and dead stock, but in some returns the information also includes numbers of ‘cars and carts’, of people ‘able to drive cattle and load carts’ or those ‘willing to serve the Government gratuitously or for hire’, which underline the concern about a possible invasion.

The returns for the agricultural census of 1803 are included in the Londonderry Papers of the 1st Marquess, held in PRONI. The PRONI reference for the census returns is D/654/A2/1–37A–C.

A detailed analysis of the returns for County Down is provided by Duncan Scarlett in Researching Down Ancestors, published by the Ulster Historical Foundation in 2004.