UK Census Records

 Please note that all extracts included in this blog are with the kind permission of the National Archives.  These images are copyright protected.

Census Records hold a wealth of information which help us build a picture of our ancestors lives and are an essential resource when researching our family histories.

The first census of England was taken by William I (The Conquerer) and is known as the Domesday Book and was completed in 1086.  However, it was not a complete census as only the head of households were listed and large cities such as London were completely omitted.  Its main purpose was to assess who owned what land and the amount that was paid in taxes to the former King, Edward the Confessor.

Here is a sample of the questions it asked:-
  • How many ploughs are there in the manor ?
  • How many mills and fishponds ?
  • How many freemen, villagers and slaves are there in the manor ?
  • How much woodland, pasture, meadow ? 
  • What does each freeman owe in the manor ?
  • How much is the manor worth ? 
 It also assessed the value of property before, during and after the war.

The Census Act of 1800, also known as The Population Act of 1800 was the Parliamentary Act which enabled the census to be taken in England, Scotland and Wales.  The first census of Ireland was taken in 1821.

It should be remembered that no census is complete.  All have either missing pieces or whole pages, so it is not always possible to find our ancestors on them.

 Below are dates on which the census was taken and the questions asked:

  • 1801 census - Tuesday, 10 March 

    To discover how many properties where inhabited and uninhabited in the parish, how many families occupied them.  Also the number of baptism, marriages and burials n the parishes
  • 1811 census - Monday, 27 May   
  • 1821 census - Monday, 28 May
  • 1831 census- Monday, 30 May
  • 1841 census - Sunday, 6 June         

    This is the first census accessible for family research. Its format is somewhat different than previous census and asked more questions. It was the first census which asked for full name, sex, age(rounded to the nearest 5 for anyone over the age of 15) and the occcupation of      everyone living in the household.    
     Here is an example of a 1841 schedule:-

  • 1851 census - Sunday, 30 March         

    In addition to the questions asked in 1841, householders where asked about their relationship to the head of the household and place of birth.  Also details of if any member of the household was blind, deaf or dumb were recorded.  This census was the first to  record those serving in the Royal and Merchant Navies, those service abroad in the armed services, British subjects residing abroad and The East India Company.

    Here is an example of an 1851 census:-

  • 1861 census- Sunday, 7 April            Only minor changes where made for the next 50 years

    Here is an example of the 1861 census:-

  •  1871 census- Sunday, 2 April             

    This census  asked if any members of the household  was an imbecile or an idiot or feeble-minded. A question which was retained until 1911.  The people where also asked if they were unemployed.
Here is an example of the 1871 census:-

  • 1881 census - Sunday, 3 April                   

    The question relating to employment status also appears in this census but does not appear again until 1931.

    Here is an example of the 1881 census:-

1891 census - Sunday, 5 April                   

This was the year that members of households were asked whether or not they where an employer or an employee.    In Wales a question relating to language was introduced.   

Here is an example of the 1891 census:-


  • 1901 census - Sunday, 31 March              

    This year the question relating to whether or not a person was working from home was introduced.

    Here is an example of the 1901 census:-

However, the Irish 1901 census is different.  This is the first one available to family historians.  It has a page per household and is signed by the enumerator and the head of the household.  It asks for additional information about religious profession, education(detailing whether or not a person can read and write) and whether or not members of the household can speak Irish.

Unfortunately I do not have copyright permission to post an image here but the Irish 1901 and 1911 census can be searched and viewed for free at

1911 census - Sunday, 2 April               

Was the first census filled in and signed by the head of the household and as such are individual pages for each household.   It recorded nationalities, how long the head of the household had been married, the number of children born, how many living and how many  died.  Suffragettes refused to give their details.

Here is an example of the 1911 census:-

The Scottish 1911 census differs from the England and Wales one in that it was completed by an enumerator the same as previous years and multiple households where recorded on one page:-

  • 1921 census - Sunday, 19 June                  (expected publication date 1 January 2022)
  • 1931 census - Sunday, 26 April                 This census was destroyed during World War II
  • 1939 - 29 September                                 

    World War II National Registration was taken  so that identity cards could be issued.  Although it won't be published until 1940 it is possible to access information about who lived at a particular address provided you are a relative.  However, it will only tell you details of those who are deceased (Proof being provided for each person by the applicant) However the information received will include:-

                                                  1.  National Registration number
                                                  2.  Address
                                                  3.  Surname
                                                  4.  First Forename
                                                  5.  Other Forename(s)/Initial(s)
                                                  6.  Date of Birth
                                                  7.  Sex
                                                  8.  Marital Status
                                                  9.  Occupation

    An application form can be found here:-
  • There was no census taken in 1941 due to World War II
  • 1951 census- 8 April
  • 1961 census - 23 April
  • 1966 census- 24 April mini-census using a ten percent sample
  • 1971 census - 25 April
  • 1981 census - 5 April
  • 1991 census - 21 April
  • 2001 census - 29 April
  • 2011 census - 27 March 
The publication of all other census is expected to be 100 years after census was taken.

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