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England and Wales:- Census

In the lists below PTV (Pay To View) is used generally to indicate sites that charge (either per view or by subscription) for images of the original documents or for full transcripts. These sites may provide basic details via free indexes.

There has been a census every ten years since 1801, excluding 1941. However, only those that date from 1841 are of real value to the family historian. The administration of the early census returns 1801-1831 was the responsibility of the Overseers of the Poor and the clergy.

Most of these early returns were unfortunately destroyed, although in some isolated instances they have been preserved. The census returns for 1841 were the first to be kept and, as far as the general public is concerned, the information is released after a hundred years. For example, the public were given access to the 1891 census returns in January 1992.

The 1841 census was different from the previous censuses in two important respects. Firstly, the administration passed into the hands of the Registrar General and the Superintendant Registrars, who were responsible for the registration of births, marriages and deaths. Many recent reforms, including the 1836 General Registration Act, which had culminated in the introduction of civil registration had resulted in a new layer of central and local government.

When the 1841 census was being prepared, it was seen as a logical step that it should also supervise the census. Consequently, civil registration and census taking became inter-related; any change in local boundaries or districts affected them both.

Secondly, the emphasis changed from questions concerned with population size, and the numbers engaged in certain occupations and the condition of the housing stock, to a much more detailed analysis of individuals and families, and the communities in which they lived.

The information recorded on individuals has tended to increase with each census. The information collected in each census is detailed on this GenDocs page.

Guy Etchells has assembled a collection of the official instructions given to enumerators for each census.

In 1851, in addition to the census of population a census was taken of places of worship. Although this was purely voluntary, most places of Worship made returns. This Ecclesiastical Census of 1851 is described by The National Archives in Discovery and the returns have been made available (free online) as part of the Digital Microfilm Project.

The census was taken on the following dates:

10 Mar   1801   No longer exists, with a few exceptions
27 May   1811   No longer exists, with a few exceptions
28 May   1821   No longer exists, with a few exceptions
30 May   1831   No longer exists, with a few exceptions
6 June   1841   Now available to the public, details below
30 March   1851   Now available to the public, details below
7 April   1861   Now available to the public, details below
2 April   1871   Now available to the public, details below
3 April   1881   Now available to the public, details below
5 April   1891   Now available to the public, details below
31 March   1901   Now available to the public, details below
2 April   1911  

Now available to the public, details below

19 June   1921   Expected to be released by TNA in January 2022
26 April   1931   Destroyed during WW2
29 September   1939   WW2 National Registration
8 April   1951     
23 April   1961     
25 April   1971     
5 April   1981     
21 April   1991     
29 April   2001     

Census returns are held at:

It is advisable before making a trip to a library or record office, to check the exact whereabouts of specific census returns in order to avoid a wasted visit. Also some libraries may have a limited number of viewers and a booking may be necessary.

1841 (6 June)

1851 (30 March)

1861 (7 April)

1871 (2 April)

1881 (3 April)

1891 (5 April)

1901 (31 March)

1911 (2 April)

Further Reading

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