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Aug 01, 2013 | 2 comments
Pre Census Censuses In England

Between 1841 and 1911 we have a glorious amount of information about where our ancestors lived and if we are not careful we can think that either side of these dates there is nothing but this is not so. Nationally, from 1801-1831 there were censuses and although they only give the total number of people living in a parish, occupations, number of houses etc., they are still very useful.The figures give us the total populaion broken down into the percentage working in agriculture and other trades and we can also see trends in population which may explain why your ancestor moved into or out of an area.

Beyond 1911 there are also published totals and some interesting figures eg deaths in the workhouse, hospitals and lunatic asylums etc

Some parishes carried out more detailed 'censuses' pre 1841 and Kate Hartland Westwood (Katehw) has drawn my attention to work done at the University of Essex to find out the number of such censuses and their location. This research on pre 1841 and post 1911 cenuses is iindexed by parish and available online at

There is also a listing of the 1801-1831 at


Janes commented Aug 02, 2013:

Yes I have found some gems, too. I love the mistakes when the enumerator hasn't quite understood what the person is saying. Place names can be quite extraordinary, the individual not really understanding what is required of them and the enumerator often not understanding what was said. It is amazing that so much was correct

Katehw commented Aug 01, 2013:

It's amazing what information you can find in census returns: even in the enumerator's 'official' returns for the period 1841-1901, I've found such delightful  descriptions as 'paramour', 'all women in this household believed to be prostitutes' and 'boy sleeps in outhouse' (and all these were under the 'occupation' heading!)

The 1911 census is particularly useful because the returns are those filled in by the head of the household, and any 'wrong' information is usually still decipherable, despite official crossings through in red ink. One ancestor of mine noted down not only his occupation, but the name of the company he worked for; my great grandfather pointed out that his eldest son was not only an assistant in the family butcher's shop, but also a student at night school; another ancestor named all the children who had been born and subsequently died between 1881 and 1911. And one of my students discovered that her great grandmother had been a foundling, because this detail had been written under 'place of birth.'


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