I was recently doing some work for a client from Cork. The family had 2 branches, based in Monalahy and Newcastle, 2 townlands near Blarney. When I looked at the 1911 census, I found the 2 branches easily.
But for the 1901 census, it wasn’t so easy, as both townlands seemed to be missing from the online version.
I phoned the National Archives to clarify what was wrong. There were 2 possibilities: the townlands had been accidentally omitted from being microfimed in the past or they’d omitted to put this section of the microfilm online. The archivist checked for me and confirmed it was the latter, which was good news, as the original paper returns are currently inaccessible. The archivist also offered to help by checking the microfilm, which was very kind. However, when she came back, she was unable to find one family on the 1901 census. This was unexpected, as the Valuation Office records showed that the family was on this land from the 1850s right up to the end of the period when domestic rates were paid in 1977.
So I went into the archives myself to have a look at this, amongst other things. The microfilm wasn’t in alphabetical order, the townlands seemed to be in a random order. Monalahy was near the beginning and, sure enough, the family in question did not seem to be there. I was flummoxed. As I was also looking for some other people, I went through the whole microfilm, and towards the end, what appeared? Some extra returns for Monalahy! The family was in this section. The return confirmed one theory I had and led on to another discovery, so it was a crucial piece of evidence.
If I hadn’t gone to check, then I wouldn’t have found this extra information. So the moral of the story is to always do your own research.