What is the Census?
The Census is basically a headcount of everyone living in the country on a particular night. The first census in England and Wales was taken in 1801 and there has been one every 10 years since (apart from in 1941 when British involvement in the Second World War prevented it taking place). Between 1801 and 1831 only general information was collected but from 1841 details about each person were recorded. This makes the Census a wonderful source of information for historians.
What can it tell us?
Each time the Census is taken, slightly different questions are asked. This is because the government needs to find out information to help it plan and provide better services. However, the following information can be gleaned from all post-1851 censuses:
- name of every person resident in a particular house or other institution on Census night
- relation to head of household
- place of birth