Starting 1801 and taking place every 10 years.  A 1941 census was not carried out due to WW2.  The census records who was in each household over the period Sunday night to Monday morning - with special arrangements for recording crews of vessels afloat (including canals) - military personel - night workers - itinerants and travellers.

Unfortunately for us - no census has been taken with the intention of identifying individuals - and only the first given name is requested - even to this day. As a consequence of this - census indexes are not sorted by surname - but by Place and Enumerators Walk. Therefore your search could take a while - since you'll be looking through the records for a district and hoping that your ancestors were in fact there on the night the census was taken. "Father" could be in lodgings whilst working away - or indeed so could any other member(s) of the family. (rev 01 Dec 2005)

Enumerator: person who distributes and collects census forms - ensuring they are correctly completed. Where a family was illiterate the Enumerator would question the household and fill in the form. Each Enumerator being responsible for a specific small local area.

Enumerators Walk: the route an enumerator took through their specific area - and may take-in side streets as they pass. Consequently main streets may become fragmented and houses for many streets do not appear in numeric sequence.

Note: In the UK Avenues do not go N-S - and Streets E-W - but may go every each way. In addition you will find many other adjectives in street names - such as: - Alley - Bank - Broadway - Circle - Close - Copse - Cresent - Drive - Fields - Gardens - Gate - Grove - Hill - Highway - Lane - Mead - Meadows - Mews - Mount - Parade - Park - Passage - Path - Place - Ride - Rise - Road - Row - Square - Steps - Terrace - View - Walk - Way (or Wey) - Wood - Yard - and I expect I've missed a few.
House numbering is sequential often with odd numbers one side of the road and even the other. When an additional house is squeezed in - the original plot number with an A suffix may be used for the new house.
(appended 08 Oct 2005)
Merchant Seamen present particular difficulty depending on where they were on the night of the Census:
  • If they were at home then they would be shown with their family;
  • If they were aboard ship then they would be shown at the port / mooring where their ship was or next stopped;
  • If they were abroad then they would be shown at the first English or Welsh port the ship returned to. (I'm not sure what happened for Scottish visits - or what the time limit was to still be included in the Census - but my guess would be that it only applied to coastal shipping that essentially remained in British territorial waters.);
  • If they were ashore at a different English or Welsh port then they would be shown at the place they lodged.
Remember it was possible for them to sign-up for a single voyage - then to be waiting at a foreign port to sign-up for another ship - and maybe several others before arriving back home.  

(class code)
1801 to 1831 Have little of use for genealogists - the data enumerated comprised little more than head counts
6th June 1841
(HO 107)
(rev 25 Apr 2006)
Included for each person who spent the night in that household:-
Name - Occupation - Whether Born in same County - Whether Born in Scotland, Ireland or Foreign Parts. - If disabled - Ages were given but above the age of 15 - ages were rounded down within 5 year bands. 16-19=15; 20-24=20 etc. Seperate age columns for male and female (so watch out for gender errors).

This census is available complete with name index at the subscription based web-site who have collaborated with The National Archives.

30th March 1851
(HO 107)
(rev 11 Aug 2003)
In addition the the above- Marital Status - Relationship to the head of the household - Place of Birth & Place of Worship; were included.  Also actual ages were given - but the accuracy cannot be relied on - as variations can be seen for given individuals in later census returns.

This was the first census to be indexed - this available from various Family History Societies with interests in the particular counties or areas - generally on paper although now - many FHS's are able to provide CD versions.

7th April 1861
(RG 9)
In addition the the above - whether Blind, or  Deaf-and-Dumb - although I would have thought this was already covered by disability!

There are very few surviving naval and merchant shipping returns before this date.

2nd April 1871
(RG 10)
(rev 16 Jun 2005)
Also noted imbeciles, idiots and lunatics.

Transcription of this Census is underway and a very limited search is available online - at a charge.

3rd April 1881
(RG 11)
(rev 16 Jun 2005)
This Census has been fully transcribed and indexed - and can be searched by placename and surname.  This index is thanks to the many voluntary hours put in by members of Family History Societies all around England and Wales.

This census is availabe on micro-fiche - and on pack of 25 CD's from the Later Day Saints (Mormons).  The latter includes more information than the fiche version and also includes Scotland and the Channel Isles.

If you are having problems installing or using the 1881 census CD's - or want to know about Advanced Searches - go to my Computer Corner
5th April 1891
(RG 12)
(rev 16 Jun 2005)
Is now available online - but with limited search facilities - and at a charge. Also some counties have been indexed by local Family History Societies - and the FRC (Family Records Centre) has a street index. If you use this in conjunction with 1881 census - you can see if a family has moved - or if there are more or less children etc. Some indexes are available through various FHS's - and others are working on them - but there has been no country wide collation. If you think the 1891 census will help you - then your best bet is to contact the FHS that covers your area of interest - and see if they have anything. See GENUKI for a list of FHS's.

One of my families had an address of just Lane in the 1881 census - which did not appear in the 1891 census. By noting the sequence of streets before and after in the enumorators walk - I was able to identify the correct address in the 1891 census as being Naggs Head Lane . Oh yes - that reminds me - Public Houses are also indexed at FRC.

31st March 1901
(rev 11 Aug 2003)
Available on-line - with free index searches - but with charges for access to the main data - which is in the form of photographic images of the original census return books.

There are a lot of transcriptions errors in the index - which originally included a large number of people with the surname DITTO!!! I have heard claims that there are many errors from each page. However before shooting the messenger - take a look at the photographic images and see how much you can decypher with certainty. Its not as easy as you might think.

The 1901 census data is also be available via computer terminals at the FRC .

1911 1921 1931 (1941 none) 1951 1961 1971 1981 1991 2001
(rev 03 May 2006)
The UK has a 100 year privacy rule relating to public access to census data.  Consequently - years 1911 to 2001 are not yet publicly available.

There are NO exceptions to this.

The 1911 census will be the next census to become available to the public - but NOT until year 2011 / 2012

Remember that the census is based on an individuals presence on the night of the census and not if they were permanently living at the returning address. This could give rise to the situation of children living at a house without parents - should their parents be staying the census night elsewhere - or the appearance of families living together. Is that aunt visiting or living with the family - the census return or other census years may give an indication.

Each census enumerators book contains details of his walk (route) to collect his returns. I have frequently found that roads dissapear and names change. So when preparing to visit a Family Records Centre such as Middleton House Islington London - it is worth making note of adjacent roads covered by the enumerator - and in particular Public Houses - from a previous census. These can then be cross checked against road indexes for a particular census.

Please only mail me about general issues. Questions about finding specific places or individuals (other than those mentioned within these pages) - will not be answered unless I can see a general use worth my researching for expanding these web-pages. Nor am I in a position to do look-up's - sorry.
Other Good Connexions pages include...........

W3C - Valid CSS    W3C - Valid XHTML 1.0 Strict XHTML Strict