There has been a census of the population of England and Wales every ten years since 1801 ( with the exception of 1941). From 1801 to 1831 inclusive, however, the numbers of people in each parish were recorded by the local Overseers of the Poor and Clergy. However their names and any personal details were NOT recorded. Conversely inhabited and empty houses, and approximate occupations were recorded.
From 1841 the information was compiled by census enumerators each of whom was responsible for a district (defined in the country as an area where an enumerator would not have to walk more than 15 miles and in towns as approximately 200 houses). Heads of households filled in their own forms and mistakes are not uncommon. The forms were copied into books by the enumerators and sent to the Census Office in London: these are the "census returns" and they had to be completed in English. The originals are now kept at the Public Record Office, but have been microfilmed and are available locally.
The 1841 census took place for the night of 6 - 7th June 1841. For the first time the name, the age (rounded down to the nearest 5 for everyone over 15 years) and occupation were recorded. Residents were asked if they were born in the county in which they now resided.
The 1851 census took place for the night of 30 - 31st March 1851. Exact ages were recorded, marital status and relationship to the head of the household. Birth places in England and Wales are given precisely.
The 1861 census took place for the night of 7 - 8th April 1861; the 1871 census for the night of 2 - 3rd April 1871; the 1881 census for the night of 3 - 4 April 1881; and the 1891 census for the night of 5 - 6th April 1891. Each of these contains basically the same information as the 1851 census described above. In 1891 the further information as to number of rooms occupied, if less than five was added
All personal information on the census remains confidential for 100 years, and so the latest returns that can be consulted are those for 1891. The 1901 census became available in January 2002.
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This page was last updated on 30/11/10 12:27