The British Census, a beginner’s guide 1841

1841

The first British census, which covered England and Wales, was undertaken in 1841.  The census was carried out by literate persons who had to visit each and every household, institution and vessel on the xxxxx 1841.  We can view all the records on line at various sites, which you will have to pay for.  The 1841 census gives us the names, age, occupation, where they lived and whether born in the county where they were living.  This was noted as a simple y for yes, or for no.  An S was recorded for those born in Scotland and an I for those of Irish birth.  If a person was born abroad an was marked instead to note this, although it does not tell us in which country they were born. The 1841 census rarely gives us full addresses and never states the relationship of the people within one household.

Another important fact that you need to be aware of is that age was marked down to the nearest 5 years.  So if a person was 38 their age was recorded as 35!   Why would they do this, when it would have been just as easy to put the persons real, known age?  Well, some people did not know their exact age in 1841, and the government were really just interested in where people were living.  There had been a huge wave of migration in the early to mid 19th century as people moved off the land into the cities and towns to find work.  The Industrial Revolution had caused many families to move to find work in the new mills, coal mines and factories that were now covering large areas of the new urban regions.

So, in brief the 1841 census will tell us:

  • The persons first name and surname (last) name
  • Age of person
  • Gender
  • Occupation
  • Where born

 

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