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Thursday, 13 March 2008

The Census in the U.K.

There has been a census every ten years since 1801, excluding 1941. However, only those that date from 1841 are of real value to the family historian. The administration of the early census returns 1801-1831 was the responsibility of the Overseers of the Poor and the Clergy.

Most of these early returns were unfortunately destroyed, although in some isolated instances they have been preserved. The census returns for 1841 were the first to be kept and, as far as the general public is concerned, the information is released after a hundred years. For example, the public were given access to the 1891 census returns in January 1992. The latest Census avilable to the Public is the 1901.

The 1841 census was different from the previous censuses in two important respects. Firstly, the administration passed into the hands of the Registrar General and the Superintendant Registrars, who were responsible for the registration of births, marriages and deaths. Many recent reforms, including the 1836 General Registration Act, which had culminated in the introduction of civil registration had resulted in a new layer of central and local government.

When the 1841 census was being prepared, it was seen as a logical step that it should also supervise the census. Consequently, civil registration and census taking became inter-related; any change in local boundaries or districts affected them both.

Secondly, the emphasis changed from questions concerned with population size, and the numbers engaged in certain occupations and the condition of the housing stock, to a much more detailed analysis of individuals and families, and the communities in which they lived. The information recorded on individuals has tended to increase with each census.

Visit the GENUKI Census Webpage for complete information concerning the U.K. Census.