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 their online leaflet Domestic Records Information 85.
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 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
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.
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