Census Records (England and Wales)


Searching Census Records and Parish Registers

Census Records are an invaluable source of information as they paint a picture of an individual family unit at ten year intervals from 1841 until the present day. The UK census records are compiled from information gathered from every dwelling on the following nights:

Census Dates:   6th June 1841     30th March 1851    7th April 1861       2nd April 1871 
                               
3rd April 1881       5th April 1891      31st March 1901    2nd April 1911

The first national census took place in Britain in 1801 and a census has been conducted every 10 years since then except 1941, due to the war. The censuses of 1801 to 1831 contained no names other than the heads of households and are therefore not very useful as genealogical tools. The first ‘usable’ census is the one of Sunday 6th June 1841 although, unlike all the subsequent ones, this does not provide places of birth. The last census to be made publicly available is the one of Sunday 2nd April 1911, which was published early as it is not covered by the 1920 Census Act which requires the closure of information to the public for 100 years. Certain sensitive information however, such as details of infirmity and children born to women in prison, remains closed for the full period.

There are many websites available which advertise searchable census records however the vast majority of these will charge you for doing so. Local family history societies have begun producing searchable records so you may be lucky if you are prepared to scour the internet.

What you can expect to discover about your ancestors from a census record:

The details on census records in 1841 were given as:

  • address of the household: street name, house number or house name
  • the name of each household member
  • the age of each person in that household
  • the sex of each person
  • the occupation of each person
  • an indication of whether or not that person had been born in that county


The details on census records between 1851 and 1901 were given as:

  • address of the household: street name, house number or house name
  • the full name of each household member
  • the exact age of each person in that household
  • the relationship of each person to the head of the household
  • the sex of each person
  • the marital status of each person
  • the occupation and employment status of each person
  • the Parish and County of birth for each person
  • whether blind, imbecile, lunatic or deaf and dumb


The details on census records in 1911 include:

  • address of the household: street name, house number or house name
  • the number of rooms in the dwelling (including the kitchen)  
  • the full name of each household member
  • the exact age of each person in that household
  • the relationship of each person to the head of the household
  • the sex of each person
  • the marital status of each person and, if married, the number of married years
  • the total number of children born alive to the present marriage
  • the number of children still living
  • the number of children who have died
  • the occupation of each person aged ten or more with branch of trade / profession 
  • whether the person is an employer, employed or working on his or her 'own account'
  • the industry or service with which the person is connected 
  • the Parish and County of birth for each person
  • whether totally deaf, deaf and dumb, totally blind, lunatic, imbecile or feeble-minded

 It is important to remember that there are two columns on each page in the 1841 census. This format is unique to that particular year and is due to the limited amount of information shown.

The 1881 census is available to search by visiting http://familysearch.org, which is an excellent resource for Parish Registers and which contains millions of records compiled over several decades by the Church of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons.