Updated: Sep 16, 2020
If you are struggling to find an ancestor in Irish Civil Registration records, it may be that they were registered with the forename of "Unknown". The Births and Deaths Registration Act, 1874 sets out the provisions of registering these details, including the naming of babies. I have been curious to know if there is any trend with these unknown birth details. My research was contained to births registered in 1900, the reason being that the 1901 census was available for comparison.
In the year 1900, 101,471 births were registered and of these 2,622 (2.6%) babies were registered with no forename. Curiously, Dublin accounted for 1,640 (62.5%) of these registrations.
Figure 1: Births Registered in Ireland 1900
The next question is there any other trend prevalent. Looking at Cork, there are only 11 "unknowns" registered and a vogue is clearly defined:
Figure 2: Summary by Religion of "Unknown" Forenames in Cork 1900
Of the five Roman Catholic "Unknown" birth registrations, there are four corresponding "Unknown" death registrations (there is no record of one death but there is no record of a baby with the family on the 1901 census so it may be assumed that the baby died soon after birth). Of the four Church of Ireland/Presbyterian births registered with the forename of "Unknown", all four babies can be found on the 1901 Census with their families.
Figure 3: Birth Registration for Baby O'Donoghue.
Figure 4: Death Registration for Baby O'Donoghue.
Whilst the evidence of 11 births is useful, more research is required to assess if the trend in Figure 2 is similar in the rest of the country. The most important aspect of this blog is to remember that Unknown can be used in the forename field in Irish Civil Record Searches for both Birth, Marriages and Deaths.