Census Returns

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Why? want to know how many people you can have in the army and still feed the population.

Malthus essay (1798) on the Principle of Population.

1800 Census Act. Napoleonic Wars. Head count with data from baptisms Hist, marriages and burials for the 18th century. Included how many were working in agriculture, trade, manufacture, handicrafts. Administered by the Home Office and enacted by the clergy. March 10th 1801 asked questions such as how many inhabited and uninhabited houses, how many people exc. military men or seamen on registered vessels. There are approx. 800 returns in local record offices and libraries. Content varies and can be found in overseers accounts, church warden accounts.

Parish Register Abstract was published in the 1800s.

From 1841 enumeration districts (of about 200 inhabited houses) were created and a clerk was appointed. Schedules/forms were completed and collected and the data copied into enumeration books. Most schedules were then destroyed. Some included maps (see RG18 Registration District Maps at TNA).

UK census in 1841 was done at harvet time and realised people were moving about so after that changed to March/April. Ages rounded down to the nearest 5 years so 65 means from 65-69, relationships were not recorded (later they are in relation to the Head), only the county is listed or Scotland (S), Ireland (I) or foreign (F).

A number of the 1861 censuses did not survive. From 1911 you have forms filled in by the householders themselves, not put into an enumeration book but the sheets are kept so you can no longer see the neighbours.


  • 6 June 1841 (HO107)
  • 30 March 1851 (HO107)
  • 7 April 1861 (RG9)
  • 2 April 1871 (RG10)
  • 3 April 1881 (RG11)
  • 5 April 1891 (RG12)
  • 31 March 1901 (RG13)
  • 2 April 1911 (RG14)


  • Mar / M = married
  • Unm / Un / S = unmarried
  • Ag Lab = agricultural labourer
  • Annuitant = living on income from investments
  • Ap / App = apprentice
  • FS / MS = female / male servant
  • FWL = 1841, Framework knitter
  • Gentleman = usually living on investments or retired
  • Ind = Independent means
  • J = journeyman. completed apprentice but not yet a Master with an apprentice of their own. A day labourer
  • Pensioner = usually army. Greenwich pensioner is naval. Old age from 1911+

Searching: less is more / there may be transcription errors / search forenames, age, place rather than surnames / search all indexes available as results can differ.

Note that young men often moved about before getting married.

In 1911 Suffragettes boycotted the census.

Read the clues for 2nd marriages and step-children. 'Scholar' means generally child over 5 and attending a daily school, tuition or Sunday School.

Special enumeration books were completed for institutions such as workhouses, hospitals and prisons. Early workhouse records only had initials.

Overseas soldiers were only recorded after 1911. Vessels recorded from 1851. Those are sea are likely to be incomplete. After 1861 Royal NAvy and Merchant shipping in home ports are listed at the end of a district where they are moored and those in foreign ports were at the end of the whole series. Note there are none for RN shops in foreign waters for 1891.

The 1931 English census was destroyed by fire. Scotish 1931 survives. 1941 not taken. There is a register for 1939, used for war time ID card rationingand later a basis for he NHS. Excludes servicemen and late registrations (in a separate book and not yet available). Living people under 100 are currently redacted. FMP redates names under 100 years.

20th century substitutes include the 1939 register and electoral rolls for addresses (search for a neighbour if you can't find someone), directories and telephone directories.

'Scholar' means generally child over 5 and attending a daily school, tuition or Sunday School.


A vision of Britain through time

Online Historical Population Reports

Pre 1841 census information