Census records are a key source of information for family historians. From them we can learn our ancestors’ age, address, occupation, marital status and that all-important birthplace. It is a good idea to look at the census pages around the one you are researching as these can often uncover relatives and will also give you a good idea of the type of neighbourhood in which your ancestors lived.

A census has been taken of the population in England every ten years since 1801 with the exception of 1941. However, the 1801-1831 censuses did not record the names of people so are only useful for statistical purposes.

1881 census for Saint Just, Cornwall, showing William Charles Angwin who was later to become a Western Australian politician [Ancestry library edition; Class RG11; Piece 2350; Folio 96; Page 12]

The following table shows the date of each census since 1841 with its National Archives reference:

Census Date National Archives Reference
6 June 1841 HO 107
30 March 1851 HO 107
7 April 1861 RG 9
2 April 1871 RG 10
3 April 1881 RG 11
5 April 1891 RG 12
31 March 1901 RG 13
2 April 1911 RG 14

Census: the expert guide

For in-depth information about the censuses see this key work published by The National Archives in 2008. It includes tips for searching online censuses and comparisons of the various commercial sites.

Where to find census returns for England

The 1841-1911 census returns for England are available on both Findmypast and Ancestry Library Edition. If you can't locate someone in one of these, it's a good idea to try the other as the indexing varies.

Where else can I access the census?

The Library holds published census data for various counties. Try searching our catalogue under keyword with the name of the county + census e.g devon census.

This website has some census data which has been transcribed by volunteers. Coverage varies but is particularly good for some counties such as Cornwall.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has indexed the 1841-1861 and 1881-1901 censuses and transcriptions of some of the data is available through their website. However, images of the census pages are not available.


Use our SLWA Family History Bookmarks to find census websites for the England recommended by the Family History Subject Specialists. Try england-census or one of the English counties e.g. england-kent. The larger the tag, the more websites appear on the list.
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Page last updated: Friday 18 July 2014

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