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Census returns

by janet on 24 November 2011 · 1 comment

Please contact Janet Woodall (janetwoodall@btinternet.com) for information on Walkern’s census returns

The British government took its first national census in 1801. A census has been taken every ten years since that date, except in 1941. The first genealogically useful census was not taken until 1841, when names were recorded.

Enumeration forms were distributed to all households a couple of days before census night and the complete forms were collected the next day. All responses were to reflect the individual’s status as of the census night for all individuals who had spent the night in the house. People who were traveling or living abroad were enumerated at the location where they spent the night on census night. All of the details from the individual forms were later sorted and copied into enumerators’ books, which are the records we can view images of today. The original householder’s schedules from 1841 to 1901 were destroyed.

The clerks who compiled and reviewed the census data made a variety of marks on the returns. Unfortunately, many of these tally marks were written over personal information and some fields, such as ages, can be difficult to read as a result. More useful marks include a single slash between households within a building and a double slash separating households in separate buildings.

1841 Census

The 1841 Census for England was taken on the night of 6 June 1841. The following information was requested:

  • Name of street, place, road, etc.
  • House number or name
  • Name of each person that had spent the night in that household
  • Age*
  • Sex (indicated by which column the age is recorded in)
  • Profession or occupation
  • Where born**

*The ages of people over 15 years old were usually rounded down to the nearest 5 years. Therefore, someone who was actually 24 years would have their age listed as 20, and someone who was actually 27 years old would have their age listed as 25.

**The “Where Born” column only asked two questions – 1) whether born in same county, and 2) whether born in Scotland, Ireland, or Foreign Parts. Possible answers and abbreviations to question #1 include: Yes (Y), No, (N), or Not Known (NK). For question #2, the following abbreviations were used: Scotland (S), Ireland (I), and Foreign Parts (F).

1861 Census

The 1861 Census for England was taken on the night of 7 April 1861. The following information was requested:

  • Name of road, street, etc
  • House number or name
  • Whether or not the house was inhabited
  • Name of each person that had spent the night in that household
  • Relationship of person enumerated to the head of the family
  • Person’s marital status
  • Age at last birthday (sex is indicated by which column the age is recorded in)
  • Person’s occupation
  • Person’s place of birth
  • Whether blind, deaf, or idiot.

1871 Census

The 1871 census for England was taken on the night of 2 April 1871. Enumeration forms were distributed to all households a few days before the census night and the household members were required to complete the forms themselves. The next day, the enumerators collected the completed forms. All of the details from the individual forms were later sorted and copied into enumerators? books.

The information requested on the census included:

  • Address (name of the street, avenue, or road; house number)
  • Occupant (name of each person who spent the night in the house; their birthplace and relationship to head of family)
  • Residence (whether home was inhabited; number of rooms occupied)
  • Personal (sex, age, marital status)
  • Occupation (whether employer, employee, or neither)
  • Health (whether blind, deaf, dumb, imbecile, idiot, or lunatic)

1881 Census

The 1881 British Isles Census was taken on the night of 3 April 1881. The following information was requested:

  • Name of street, avenue road, etc.
  • House number or name
  • Whether or not the house was inhabited
  • Number of rooms occupied if less than five
  • Name of each person that had spent the night in that household
  • Relationship of person enumerated to the head of the family
  • Each person’s marital status
  • Age at last birthday (sex is indicated by which column the age is recorded in)
  • Each person’s occupation
  • Person’s place of birth
  • Whether deaf and dumb, blind, imbecile or idiot, or lunatic.

1891 Census

The 1891 Census for England was taken on the night of 5 April 1891. The following information was requested: Name of street, avenue road, etc.; house number or name; whether or not the house was inhabited; number of rooms occupied if less than five; name of each person that had spent the night in that household; relationship of person enumerated to the head of the family; each person’s marital status; age at last birthday (sex is indicated by which column the age is recorded in); each person’s occupation; whether they are employer or employee or neither; person’s place of birth; whether deaf, dumb, blind, or lunatic.

1901 Census

The 1901 Census for England was taken on the night of 31 March 1901. The following information was requested: Name of street, avenue road, etc.; house number or name; whether or not the house was inhabited; number of rooms occupied if less than five; name of each person that had spent the night in that household; relationship of person enumerated to the head of the family; each person’s marital status; age at last birthday (sex is indicated by which column the age is recorded in); each person’s occupation; whether they are employer or employee or neither; person’s place of birth; whether deaf, dumb, blind, or lunatic.

 

Taken from “Chapter 6: Census Returns,” Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History by Mark D. Herber (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1998) and Using Census Returns, Pocket Guides to Family History by David Annal (Richmond, Surrey: Public Record Office, 2002).

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Emma Copps August 31, 2015 at 5:49 pm

Hi, I’m researching my husbands family and the names William and Sarah Copps came up as a possible match to our family. I was just wondering if you have any information please. They resided at High Tree Farm.
Thank you

Reply

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