British Censuses

The soc.genealogy.britain Frequently Asked Questions about British Censuses

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This FAQ may be found at http://genealogy-britain.org.uk/

Last updated 9th June 2008

Question: When was the census taken ?

Answer : There has been a census taken in the United Kingdom every ten years since 1801. However, those for 1801, 1811, 1821 and 1831 were statistical only and, therefore, of little or no assistance to the genealogist.

In a very few places, a record of names was retained by the local enumerator and some of these fragments may be found in record offices (check the Gibson Guide “Local Census Listings 1522 -1930” for details).

These listings are very sparse, but you may be lucky. The first census to be of real practical use to the genealogist was that of 1841, the first to record names nationally.


  • Midnight. Sun/Mon. 6/7th June 1841
  • Midnight. Sun/Mon. 30/31st March 1851
  • Midnight. Sun/Mon. 7/8th April 1861
  • Midnight. Sun/Mon. 2/3rd April 1871
  • Midnight. Sun/Mon. 3/4th April 1881
  • Midnight. Sun/Mon. 5/6th April 1891
  • Midnight. Sun/Mon. 31st March / 1st April 1901
  • Midnight. Sun/Mon. 2/3rd April 1911*
  • Midnight. Sun/Mon. 19/20th June 1921
  • Midnight. Sun/Mon. 26/27th April 1931 ( English returns were destroyed in W.W. II, those for Scotland survive )
  • ** There was no Census taken in 1941 **
  • *(Not fully available before January 2012, although parts of the English returns will become available soon)

Question: Which Censuses are available online? Where can I see them?

Answer: There used to be a long, comprehensive and largely outdated list here of both online and offline census data. However, Daniel Morgan’s excellent summary page at http://www.mit.edu/~dfm/genealogy/census-chart.html makes them thoroughly obsolete, so please visit that page for more information.

Question: What about offline resources? CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, and so on?

Answer:With the very large amount of online information now available for an annual fee, offline resources are a lot less important than they used to be. Having said that,there are a number of suppliers for census information on CD-ROM and DV-ROM.

Question: What information do I need to supply when I ask for a census

Answer: As much as possible! Surname, Given Name, Age, Spouse / Parents (if known) and finally both the Town and County where you believe them to have resided. Remember, some modern counties have names different to those given in the census. These CDs are only searchable by name and not by address unless you buy some extra (expensive) software.

Please do not ask for lookups at a specific address, ask for specific people instead.