THE OLD AGE PENSION, AN UNFAMILIAR SOURCE
by James R. Reilly, CGRS

With the passing of the Old Age Pension Act on August 1, 1908, it became necessary for persons who thought themselves eligible for this social benefit to provide proof of age when filing their application. The law required that the applicant have attained the age of seventy as of January 1, 1909; persons born in 1839 and earlier would be eligible.

However, proof posed problems for many of the applicants. Since civil registration of births did not commence until January 1, 1864, a birth certificate did not exist. A baptismal register entry would suffice as proof if such a register existed and contained the applicant's name and the name of the parents. Proof of marriage from a superintendent Registrar Office wa also acceptable. Men who had done military service could submit Discharge Records.

A large number of applicants sought proof of age from the 1841 and/or 1851 Censuses. The original population schedules were on file in Dublin, and a system was provided to search for the needed information.

Census search forms, or "green forms' as they were called because of the green paper used, were completed between 1910 and 1922 by the staff of the Public Record Office from information supplied by the applicant. The forms were used as an internal office record of the search made in the census. Applicants provided information by letter or by a government from submitted by the local Pension Board. Where sufficient details were submitted by the applicant a search was undertaken. And when the family was found and the applicant identified as a child of the family, a certified copy of the census return was issued on the payment of two shillings.

There were two census search forms used - the standard green form and a "pink" form used for a brief period. Sadly, many searches were unsuccessful. In 1928 the forms relating to the Republic of Ireland were sent to the PRO in Dublin (now The National Archives, Bishop Street); those of the six counties of Northern Island are in the Belfast Public Record Office.

In the Dublin National Archives an index finding aid for each county is available in the Reading Room in which the "Green Forms" are arranged by barony, civil parish, townland/street and the name of the family searched in the census. Also indicated is the census year/years searched. Where it is not clear which census was examined, the learning aid states that "it is thought likely to have been 1851 and this is indicated by a question mark (e.g. 1851?)".

The civil parish and townland/street are where the applicant believed his/her family lived in 1841 and 1851. When a townland/street appears in the index, the name of each individual is given on whose behalf a "Green Form" was completed. In some casesseveral places are given by the government searches, when a family was not found all places searched were included. But when the family was found only the correct address is given.

Unsuccessful searches are shown in the index finding aid by an "X" in th column headed NOT FOUND. An asterisk indicates further details about the search are included on the reverse side of the form.

"In 1911 alone, over 85,000 searches were carried out" notes Tony McCarthy in his The Irish Roots Guide. So great was the demand for assistance from applicants that the Deputy Keeper of Records in the Public Record Office stated in his Annual Report to Parliament that "it has been yet necessary to suspend temporarily most of the regular work of the Department...and to curtail very much the privileges accorded to readers."

Although the "Green Forms" have not been filmed by the Family History Library, Salt Lake City, many of the certified census returns used to establish an applicant's eligibility have been filmed by the Library. Although the vast majority of the certified copies are from the six counties of Northern Ireland, some for the Republic have been filmed.

The Locality Catalog for IRELAND-CENSUS lists twenty rolls of abstracts of the 1841 and 1851 census of various counties of Northern Ireland pertaining to old age pension claims. Film number 0258525 contains returns for the Republic.

Under IRELAND-PENSIONS are twenty-four films of the census returns for Northern Ireland with film 0993107 for the Republic. Film 0993105 is informational for the types of evidence submitted for eligibility, military records, baptismal certificates and so forth.

Check IRELAND-CENSUS - 1841 - 1851 for four additional films which continue the 0258525 series noted above under IRELAND-CENSUS.

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