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Census Returns

The 1841 Census

1841 English Census fro Benjamin Disraeli

In 1841, information was limited to a list of the households, addresses were not all that common in rural areas, and there was no idea of the relationship between the people listed. 1841 was the first time that the head of each household was given a form to fill in on behalf of everyone in the dwelling on a set day. This system still forms the basis of the method used today.

The census taken on the night of 6th June 1841 gave the total population of Great Britain as 18,534,332. The [faint] example above is typical and shows Benjamin Disraeli.

1 - Town and Parish

This shows you where the census was taken. It can be confusing in larger towns and cities, where the parish appears more important than the town name.

2 - Address

Addresses can be limited to the village or town name, or to a local derivation of it, for example - 'Chapel End'.

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3 - Name

The first and surname of the person - different spellings are possible even within the same family. An enumerator would write the details in, so the handwriting should be consistent throughout the page (if somewhat illegible), and they would interpret names as they felt it should be spelled if the person didn't know. Wives often responded to the enumerator, so if the couple weren't married the woman's surname could appear as the family name. There are no "original census records". What was called "Household Schedules" were delivered to each household a few days before the census date, a person called an Enumerator then collected the schedules in the days after the census date. What we are left with are the census returns, the Enumerator's interpretation of what the householder wrote on those schedules.

4 - Age

Self-explanatory, and split between male and female, which does help if names are unclear. Their ages had to be the exact age for children up to 15, but confusingly ages over 15 were rounded down to the nearest 5 years so people could be conveniently recorded in "age bands" for statistical purposes. For example, a person recorded as 30 years old could be either 30, 31, 32, 33 or 34!

NOTE: Thus if someone is recorded with an age of 2, their birth year will be shown as 1879. The 1881 census was taken on the evening of Sunday 3rd April 1881. People born between 1 January 1879 and 3 April 1879 will be aged 2 and will have their birth year shown correctly.

5 - Occupation

It was normally only male entries (and then normally only the head of the household) and single women (often just servants) who had occupations listed.

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6 - Born in the county

The 1841 census fails us in telling us where people were born, except that they were (or not) born in the county where they lived on the 6th June. It provides a guide, and if the person survived to 1851, the data improves. Marriages and deaths cloud your research. The answer was either yes "Y" or no "N", or "S" for Scotland, "I" for Ireland or "F" for a foreign country.

7 - Source citation

This is the record number, comprising of the following:

  • Class which is always HO107 for 1841.
  • Piece - At some point in the enumeration process, the returns were organised into distinct County groups. And a number of Enumeration Books were gathered into "Pieces". Unused leaves of the books were discarded.
  • Book - This is the enumerator's book.
  • Civil Parish - This is the parish for the census.
  • County - The county for this census.
  • Enumeration District - Self-explanatory.
  • Folio - A folio is either a leaf of the enumerator's book, or it is the two pages that can be viewed side by side in the open enumerator's book.
  • Page - Self-explanatory.
  • GSU roll - Copyright reference for the film of the page.

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