Genealogy Help

Census Returns

The 1851 Census

1851 Census showing Randolph Churchill

The 1851 census is similar to the 1841 return, but with more information available, including the relationship to the head of the household (4), marital status (5) and place of birth (8). In true, uncompassionate Victorian style, there is also a column for recording whether the person is Deaf, Dumb or Blind (9).

The census was taken on the night of 30 March 1851 and gave the total population of Great Britain as 20,816,351. The census return shown comes from the TNA at Kew and displays Lord Randolph Churchill - father of Sir Winston Churchill.

The common elements to 1841 are:

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.

4 - Relationship to the head of the family

This column lists whether the person listed is a son, daughter, wife, etc. It also lists servants and borders, etc.

5 - Condition

The condition is the marital status! It is often abbreviated - 'U' (it often looks like an 'M') means unmarried.

6 - Age

Self-explanatory, and split between male and female, which does help if names are unclear. The records become more accurate from 1851, but it does rely on people knowing their age (or being honest about it!).

7 - Occupation

It was normally only male entries and single women (often just servants) who had occupations listed.

8 - Where Born

An improvement on the 1841 census, but it relied on the enumerator making correct notes, and knowing how to spell place names away from the locality. You may also find the enumerator lists a nearby town rather than the village given!

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9 - Aliments

The politically incorrect column showing 'deformities' and disabilities.

10 - Source citation

This is the record number, comprising of the following:

  • Class which is still HO107 for 1851
  • 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
  • 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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