Census Records Overview
This page covers the 1841 census for England and Wales, taken on the night of Sunday 6 June. It does not contain as much information as the later censuses, but is still very useful for family historians.
The image below shows an extract from a typical page from the census. Scroll down to see in more detail what it contains.
What does it contain?
The information you will find is as follows:
- Place – this may be just the name of the village, but may include the name of the street and, in some cases, house name
- Whether the house was inhabited or not – generally, households were separated by a slash /, and a new building by two slashes //.
- Name of each person who spent the night there. People who were working away from home on the Sunday night were generally not recorded. This was rectified in later censuses.
- Age – for those aged sixteen and over, ages were supposed to be rounded down to the nearest five years. For example, if your ancestor had an apparent age of 40, he may really have been anything from 40 to 44. However, not all enumerators rounded down ages – and some seem to have rounded the age up!
- Sex – male or female.
- Profession, trade, employment or of independent means. Some common abbreviations were used. These included Ag Lab – agricultural labourer (see picture below); FS – female servant; MS – male servant; Ind – of independent means.
- Whether born in the county – this is a simple yes or no (or even NK, meaning not known), so is not as useful to the genealogist as information in the later censuses.
- Whether born overseas – the enumerator could specify S = Scotland, I – Ireland, F = foreign parts.
The scrawls you often see on census pages are written by the enumerator, who had to tot up different statistics to report to the government.
Found an agricultural labourer in your family? The picture below shows an example of the machinery an aglab might have used at the time of the census. It's a liquid manure cart from Rural Cyclopaedia published in 1848 in Edinburgh. As to its contents, the book helpfully notes that "The urine of men, the urine of horses, and the urine of cattle, all differ from one another in composition; and each, when in a recent state, is very different from what it becomes when stale or putrid"... There was also the option of adding night soil.
How do I find my Ancestor?
If you subscribe to a site, such as ancestry.co.uk, you can consult their person index for the 1841 census. These indexes have been compiled by transcribers. They had a difficult task, as many returns were difficult to read. As a result, your ancestor’s name may have been transcribed incorrectly. Therefore, you may have to use some ingenuity in your search.
If you can’t find the person you are interested in, you can try browsing the actual census returns for the place you think they were living.
How do I find a place?
The reference used by the National Archives for the 1841 census (and the 1851 census) is HO107 (HO 107). If you would like to find the reference for a particular place, search The National Archives' catalogue for the 1841 census. To do this, set the year range to 1841-1841. Type in HO107 as the series code. Then enter the place name.
What places are missing?
Some 1841 census returns have not survived. The National Archives lists the following as missing:
- Hampshire – Winnall.
- Kent – Bishopsbourne, Herne Bay, Reculver, Sturry, Swalecliffe, Westbere, Seasalter Liberty, Whitstable (including the township of Harwich, which is also missing), Ashford (part missing), Smarden.
- Middlesex – Paddington.
- Northamptonshire – Blatherwycke, Bulwick, Bulwick Short Leys, Deene (this includes the township of Deenethorpe, which is missing), Great Weldon (ditto township of Little Weldon), Weedon-Beck, Haselbeech.
- Oxfordshire – Yarnton or Yarington.
- Denbigh – Clocaenog (including townships Isa and Ucha), Derwen (including townships Derwen-Dyfanedd and Derwen-Ysgeifiog), Llanelidan (including townships Bryncume, Garthyneuvedd, Llan, Nantclwyd and Trewyn-Bodlowydd), Llanfair-Dyffrin-Clwyd (including townships Derwen-Llanerch, Euarth, Faynol and Garthgynan), Llanaron (including townships of Alltgymbyd, Benhadlen, Bodidris& Bodidris Truam, Bodigre’r-Abbot, Bodigre’r-Yarll, Creiogiog-Is-Glan, Creigiog-Uwch-Glan, Chwyleiriog, Cyfnant, Erryrys, Gelligynnan, Gwaenyffymon, Llan).
- Flint – Bangor (part missing, including Bangor township – rest is missing from Bromfield Hundred, Denbs), Erbistock (part missing – rest missing from Bromfield Hundred, Denbs), Hope, or Estyn (including townships Caergwyrle, Cymmau, Estyn, Hope Owen, Rhanberfedd, Shordley, Isaf Uwch-y-Mynydd, Uchaf Uwch-y-Mynydd), Llanarmon (part missing, including township Bodidris – rest missing from Yale Hundred Denbs), Threapwood (part missing – rest missing from Broxton Hundred, Cheshire), Worthenbury, Wrexham (part missing, including township Abenbury Fechan – rest missing from Bromfield Hundred, Denbs).
- Glamorgan – Merthyr-Tydfil (including township Garth), Cowbridge, Llan-blethian (including Aberthin and Treinghill), St Bride Major (including township St Bride, and part of Lampha).