Understanding the concept
Developing your Family Tree
Census reports have been taken in Britain every ten years since 1801, but only those from 1841 will be of use to family historians, as returns from 1801-31 contain only limited statistical data. All census records are closed for 100 years, and at present you can only view the returns for 1841-1901.
The 1841 census is less informative than those for 1851-1901, as it only records the full name, age, gender and occupation for each individual in every property on the day of the census. Everyone over the age of 15 had their age rounded down to the nearest five years, so care should be taken when attempting to use this data to confirm birth dates. From 1851, you will find the full name, precise age and marital status of every person with each household. You will also find their relationship to the head of household, their gender and their occupation, as well as the parish and county of birth for every person within each household.
Census records for England and Wales are stored on microfilm at the Family Records Centre, London; Scottish records are at New Register House, Edinburgh. You can also access relevant copies at county record offices, or at family-history centres maintained by the Church of the Latter Day Saints.
Irish records for the 19th century no longer survive, but you can view records for 1901 and 1911 (which are largely complete) at the National Archives, Dublin, with copies available at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Belfast.
It is very important for those researching their family history to know roughly where relatives lived, and preferably their street address. Fortunately, there are place and street indexes available, to help narrow down the relevant documents. In addition, a personal-name index, covering 26 million individuals listed with the records, arranged by county, has been produced on microfiche for the 1881 census. The entire census for 1881 can be purchased as a set of CD-ROMs from the Church of the Latter Day Saints. Some researchers have also produced regional indexes for other years, most notably for 1851.