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According to the 1841 Census, County Donegal had a population of 296,000 people. As a result of famine and emigration, the population had reduced by 41,000 by 1851 and further reduced by 18,000 by 1861. By the time of the 1951 Census the population was only 44% of what it had been in 1841.  The 2006 Census, undertaken by the State's Central Statistics Office , had County Donegal's population standing at 147,264. According to the 2011 Census , the county's population had grown to 161,137.
There is archaeological evidence for settlements around the town dating to prehistoric times , including the remains of ringforts and other defensive earthworks.