Family History

General Information on the Census

Census Returns

Census returns are organised by county, and within each county by enumeration districts, which were based on the sub-districts used by the registrars of births, marriages and deaths.   An enumeration district may cover a whole village, or, in more populous areas, just a few streets.  This means that, unless your ancestors lived in a small village, it can be time-consuming to find them in a census return if you do not use an index.

Each census records those in each household on census night.  The head of the household filled in a return which was collected by the enumerator on the Monday after census night.  If the householder could not write, the enumerator or perhaps a neighbour completed the form for him.


Censuses were taken on the night of Sunday/Monday as follows:

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

Information from the census

The 1841 census records names, the occupation of the head of the household, approximate ages, and whether each person was born in the county, Y(es) or N(o).  In 1841, ages were recorded in months for babies up to one year old, and in years for children up to fifteen.  After fifteen, ages were rounded down to the nearest 5 or 0, e.g. thirty four is recorded as 30, and twenty nine as 25.    

From 1851 onwards, the census recorded accurate ages, and also relationship to the head of the household, marital status, and place of birth, where known.