What is a Census?
The census is a complete population count for a given area or place
taken on a specific date every ten years. The 1841 census is considered
to be the first modern UK census, and is the earliest census that
is widely available for access.
Each householder was required to complete a census schedule giving
the address of the household, the names, ages, sex, occupations
and places of birth of each individual residing in his or her accommodation.
From 1851, householders were asked to give more precise details
of the places of birth of each resident, to state their relationship
to him or her, marital status and the nature of any disabilities
from which they may have suffered.
The enumerator then collected the census schedules and these were
copied into census enumerators' books. These books were kept and
now reside in the PRO
Finding an Ancestor in the Census
It is necessary for you to know the name of the town or area your
ancestors lived in. Knowing a more detailed address can help you
locate an ancestor, but this is not needed. However, rural areas
can be researched fairly quickly.
Information provided in the Census
To view an example page from the census, click the image above.
All census records include Forename & Surname,
Age, Sex, Occupation,
In 1841, the only other piece of information recorded was the county
of birth - this only tells you if the person was born in the same
census county (usually has a y/yes or n/no).
From 1851, more information was added. This included the town/county
of birth, the relation to head of household, marital status, and
medical disabilities. Employment Status was also recorded from 1891.
Census details also included visitors and servants, who sometimes
provide further clues.
Tips & Things to Remember
- House and street names can change dramatically in ten years,
so be flexible in your searching!
- Make a note of neighbours and local professions, and look for
married children living nearby.
- Information in the 1841 Census is limited - if a person was
over 15, their age is usually rounded down to the nearest 5 years,
and their birthplace is either 'y' or 'yes' if they were born
in the same county, or 'n' or 'no' if they were born elsewhere.
- Consider spelling variants, wrong names/ages, and the possibility
that some people were not recorded.
Viewing Census Records
- View the original enumerators' books at The National Archives
in Kew, and the Family Records Centre in Islington - click
here to see how to get there. (This can be a lengthy and expensive
process, it is recommended you buy the census records on CD-ROM
or view them on the internet.)
- Complete indexes, transcriptions, and scans of the original
pages can be viewed at TheGenealogist.co.uk
- Indexes and transcripts are also available at RootsUK,
and they offer a free search of the census records.
More Information about the Census
You can view more information about the census at UKCensusOnline.com,
which also holds links to interesting sites about different census
years, and the census in London, Lancashire and Yorkshire. This
is worth looking at, as there is a wealth of information on these