Census – Lesson 3

The Census together with Civil Registration are perhaps the most important set of documents that you can consult to trace your family back to 1837. The census has been taken every 10 years since 1801 except for 1941 which was omitted due the danger of the information fallen into enemy hands during WW2. The early census until 1841 were generally a head count with simply the number of inhabitants of each household being recorded.

Census – Lesson 3

However in a few areas the enumerators decided to be more concise and noted the heads of the household and very occasional named all the members of the family. These very earlier census, if they exist, can be found in the County Record Office of the city, town or village where the census was taken.

The census from 1841 to 1911 are now all available online through a number of different pay to view websites such as www.ancestry.co.uk, www.findmypast.co.uk,www.genesreunited.co.uk. They are also gradually becoming available on the LDS website https://familysearch.org/, an abridged transcript is free to view and if you wish to see the whole entry and to check the original document you will be redirected to the www.findmypast.co.uk which will require payment.

It is useful to know how the census was taken up until the 1911 census, from 1841 enumerators were appointed and their task was to call on each household in their allotted area on the day after the census night and record from preferably the head of the household who had slept there on the night of census. This information was recorded in books which were destroyed after the forms that we now inspect had been filled in using the information recorded in the census books.

The 1911 census is the first census where we are able to see the forms filled in by the heads of households in their own handwriting. The enumerators dropped off the form to each household prior to the census night and then picked them up in the following days.

A very important thing to keep in mind when using the census records is that the information is as only as good as that which was provided by the person who spoke to the enumerator and that might not be the person whose details were being recorded. Also it must be remembered that people have since time immemorial have lied about their age as well as their marital status etc.!

Census – Lesson 3

It is a good habit to get into of recording the source of any documents that you are using to create your family tree. You will see at the bottom of each census example the reference number of that particular entry. This is the source reference details.

As family historians it is perhaps difficult to remember that the record we now consult so that we may trace our ancestors far back in time were not originally compiled for that purpose. Whilst we might mourn the loss of the books filled in by the enumerators whilst going door to door we should be grateful that the detailed information in any form has survived. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand have and still do destroy the personal details after extracting the data and transforming it into numerical information.

1841 Census

In the 1841 census the enumerators were charged with recording the following -

  1. The address of each household – remember at this time only property in the larger towns and cities would have had street numbers.
  2. Name
  3. Age – ages up to 15 years were recorded exactly but ages over 15 were rounded to the nearest 5 years. For example 48 years would be recorded as 50 years. The age is written under either the female or male column.
  4. Occupation – some occupations were abbreviated such as F.S. for female servant.
  5. Whether the person was born in the county in which they now resided. If they answered no then a further question was asked. Whether born in Scotland, Ireland or Foreign Parts.

Note that there was no requirement in the 1841 census to provide details of the relationship of the household to one another. Therefore this can only be guessed at if no other documentary evidence is found in other records.

Below is an example of what might be expected in an entry for the 1841 censusCensus – Lesson 3

1851 Census

Ten years later in 1851 the powers that be had decided they required far more information to be collected by the enumerators.

In the 1851 census the enumerators were charged with recording the following -

  1. The address of each household.
  2. Name.
  3. Relationship to the head of the household.
  4. Condition – this meant whether married, single, widowed or widower.
  5. Age.
  6. Occupation.
  7. Where born
  8. Whether blind or deaf and dumb.

Census – Lesson 3

1861 Census

In the 1861 census the enumerators were charged with recording the following -

  1. The address of each household.
  2. Name.
  3. Relationship to the head of the household.
  4. Condition – this meant whether married, single, widowed or widower.
  5. Age.
  6. Occupation.
  7. Where born
  8. Whether blind or deaf and dumb.

Census – Lesson 3

1871 Census

In the 1871 census the enumerators were charged with recording the following -

  1. The address of each household.
  2. Name.
  3. Relationship to the head of the household.
  4. Condition – this meant whether married, single, widowed or widower.
  5. Age.
  6. Occupation.
  7. Where born
  8. Whether 1. deaf & dumb, 2. blind, 3. imbecile or idiot, 4. lunatic.

Census – Lesson 3

1881 Census

In the 1881 census the enumerators were charged with recording the following -

  • The address of each household.
  • Name.
  • Relationship to the head of the household.
  • Condition – this meant whether married, single, widowed or widower.
  • Age.
  • Occupation.
  • Where born
  • Whether 1. deaf & dumb, 2. blind, 3. imbecile or idiot, 4. lunatic.

Census – Lesson 3

1891 Census

In the 1891 census the enumerators were charged with recording the following -

  1. The address of each household and number of rooms occupied if less than five..
  2. Name.
  3. Relationship to the head of the household.
  4. Condition – this meant whether married, single, widowed or widower.
  5. Age.
  6. Occupation & whether an employer, employee or neither and employer or an employee.
  7. Where born
  8. Whether 1. deaf & dumb, 2. blind, 3. lunatic, imbecile or idiot.

Census – Lesson 3

1901 Census

In the 1901 census the enumerators were charged with recording the following -

  1. The address of each household and number of rooms occupied if less than five..
  2. Name.
  3. Relationship to the head of the household.
  4. Condition – this meant whether married, single, widowed or widower.
  5. Age.
  6. Occupation & whether an employer, employee or neither and employer or an employee.
  7. Where born
  8. Whether 1. deaf & dumb, 2. blind, 3. lunatic 4. imbecile or feeble minded.

Census – Lesson 3

1911 Census

This is the first census in which the form was filled in by the head of the household, so you get the joy of actually seeing their handwriting and also the answers are as they wrote them not as the enumerator decided they should be written down !

The information asked for is also different in many respects.

In the 1911 census the enumerators were charged with recording the following -

  1. The address of each household
  2. Name.
  3. Relationship to the head of the household.
  4. Age, next birthday.
  5. Condition – this meant whether married, single or widowed. For married women state how many years married to present husband, how many children born alive to present marriage and how many of those children are living and how many have died.
  6. Occupation & Industry or Service in which person is employed.
  7. Whether an employer, worker or on own account & whether working at home.
  8. Birthplace
  9. Nationality if born in foreign parts
  10. Whether totally deaf, deaf & dumb, totally blind, lunatic imbecile or feeble minded.

Census – Lesson 3

1939 National Identity Card

The 1941 census was not taken because of WW2, but there is a set of records that can be used, at a cost, as a substitute. In 1939 it became obvious to the government that a National Identity Card would need to be issued to all the residents of the United Kingdom so that people could prove who they were if necessary and so that ration books etc. could be issued.

Census – Lesson 3

The records for this set of data has been kept and have recently become available to the public via a search service.

The National Registration Day was held on 29th September 1939, the forms were delivered to all households across the country. Householders were required to record details on the forms which were then picked up by enumerators who issued identity cards for resident who was entered on the form. This information was later used to force the first database for the NHS.

The information collected is as follows -

  • The address of each household
  • Name.
  • Full birth date.
  • Condition – this meant whether married, single, widowed or widower.
  • Occupation.
  • Membership of Naval, Military or Air Force Reserve or Auxiliary Forces or Civil Defence.

There is a charge of £42 per household for up to nine people and the information can only be released for those who have died. Here is a link to obtain more details for obtaining information and the form for applying for the release of details.

http://www.ic.nhs.uk/services/1939-register-service

 

Census Dates

  Date census of taken Online
1841 Census 6 June yes
1851 Census 30 March yes
1861 Census 7 April yes
1871 Census 2 April yes
1881 Census 3 April yes
1891 Census 5 April yes
1901 Census 31 March yes
1911 Census 2 April yes
1921 Census 19 June Released January 2022
1931 Census 26 April Destroyed WW2
1941 Census Not taken