Background: What is a Census? A census is a survey that contains a specific set of questions to find out and record information about members of the population. It is unique because it covers everyone at the same time and asks the same basic questions to all. Since 1801 and every ten years since (except during the war years) the government has set aside one day for holding a ‘census’. The last census was held in March 2011.
Unfortunately, most of the early returns for 1801-1831 were destroyed and only statistical summaries were published. The census material that is available today and that family historians find most useful in the UK are the census returns from 1841-1911.
The census will show where your ancestor was living, who else was living in the household, occupation (job) and from 1851 the family connections the householders had to each other, whether they were married or single and place of birth. All of these can assist you when trying to put together your family tree.
Note: Because of UK privacy laws we are unable to view census material earlier than the last 100 years. The latest census that we are currently able to view is 1911.
Challenge: Let’s look at the census! To get an idea about what a census looks like and what information it contains can you look at these census enumerations for Florence Nightingale at:
Look at and read through the census returns carefully and see if you can answers any of the following set of questions about Florence Nightingale:
1. In 1841 who is living in the
house with Florence Nightingale?
You can see by looking carefully at the census that you are able to get an idea about Florence Nightingale’s life and draw a number of conclusions just by looking at the information that was recorded on the various census returns.
How do I do this:
Other suggested resources and useful