Information contained in a census

Pre 1841 censuses, (and very few survive) are almost all statistical only, i.e. number of males and females in a household, although some do contain the names of the head of the household.

The 1841 census was the first to have all names and ages of the household, together with occupations listed.

Censuses from 1851 onwards contain much more information.

The 1841 Census

A census enumerator's book of the 1841 census contains the following information:

  • Place
    Usually a simple address, with little detail.
  • Houses (inhabited and uninhabited)
    A count of the number of inhabited and uninhabited houses.
  • Names of each person who abode therein the previous night
    First name and surname.
  • Age and Sex (A column for each)
    Ages of those over 20 were rounded down to the nearest 5 years, therefore a person age 44 would be shown as aged 40. Those under 20 years of age were recorded with their proper age.
    In practice, although the above were the instructions to enumerators, it is relatively common to see the exact age af adults stated.
  • Profession, Trade or Employment, or of Independent Means
  • Where Born
    The actual place fo birth is not recorded.
    • Whether born in same county
      Simply a Y (born in the same county) or a N
    • Whether born in Scotland, Ireland or Foreign parts
      Completed where applicable, usually with a Y

The censuses from 1851

The 1851 (and later) censuses contained more information

The head of the page contained (where applicable)

  • The Parish (or Township)
  • The Citiy or Municipal Borough
  • The Municipal Ward
  • The Parliamentary Borough
  • The Town
  • The Hamlet or Tything
  • The Ecclesiastical District

In the example above, we see just two of these stated, the parish of Twickenham, and theEcclesiastical District of St. Mary.

The main columns of the census enumerator's book contained the following:

  • The No. of the Schedule
    Further information on Schedules
  • Road, Street, and No. or name of house
    Very often, this was left blank, except for in towns and cities. It may contain the name of a part of a village. It is not uncommon for the house number to be omitted.
  • Houses (inhabited or uninhabited)
    A simple count of houses.
  • Name and surname of each person
    Listed with the head of household first, then the wife(if applicable), then children in descending age order, then other people such as visitors, servants, etc. It was normal to use "Do." (ditto) to avoid writing out the same surname for each person.
  • Relation to head of family
    Head head of the household
    Wife wife of householder
    (A widow or unmarried woman can be can be a head)
    Son Son
    Daur Daughter
    Serv Servant
    Vis Visitor
    (note that a visiting daughter, i.e. not normally resident,  will usually be listed as visitor, rather than daughter)
  • Condition
    Mar Married
    Unm Unmarried
    Wid Widow or widower
  • Age (male and female columns)
    Exact age given, but be aware that this may not be accurate for various resons. The exact age may not be known, or, where the wife is older than the husband, the age stated may be "fudged".
  • Rank, Profession or Occupation
    There were acceptable abbreviations, for example Ag. Lab. is an agricultural labourer, FWK is a framework knitter. In the case of farmers, the size of the farm would be stated. In the case of an employer, it is usual to state, for example: "employing 4 men".
  • Where born
    Place and county, (or country). This is not always accurate! A person may have thought they were born in a place, but really, they just spent their younger days in a particular place and thought that was their birthplace.
  • Whether blind, or deaf & dumb
    Stated. e.g. "blind" or "blind from birth".

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