1851 Census

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On Sunday, 30 March, the second nominal (all name) census was taken in England

England Census Record Sample
Class: HO107; Piece: 2340; Folio: 149B; Page: 17; GSU roll: 87594-87595

When the 1851 England Census was taken, enumeration forms were given to every household a few days prior to the census and the householder was asked to record the names and details for all persons who spent the night of 30 March 1851 in the house.  The census forms were collected the day after the census day. If a family member was away from home on census night, they were to be recorded wherever they spent the night.  Night workers, who normally lived in the house and who would return from work in the morning were to be recorded.

Questions Asked of the Householder

  • Name of street, place, road, etc.
  • House number or name
  • Name of each person that had spent the night in that household
  • Relationship of person enumerated to the head of the family
  • Person’s marital status
  • Age at last birthday (sex is indicated by which column the age is recorded in)
  • Person’s rank, profession, or occupation
  • Person’s place of birth (if outside of England or Wales, only the country may be given)
  • Whether blind, deaf, or idiot

All of the details from the individual schedules were sorted and copied into the enumerators books and the original householders schedules were destroyed.

Special Notes

Where the 1841 census had only recorded whether or not an individual was born in the county of enumeration, the 1851 census recorded the specific parish or town of birth as well as the county. The 1851 census also recorded the relationship of individuals to the head of the household. Ages were recorded to the exact year.

Missing or Damaged Records

Some parishes or portions of parishes are missing entirely from the 1851 census returns. Returns from other localities, primarily in the county of Lancashire, were damaged by water while in storage and have developed mold. Ancestry has used new forensic and photographic techniques to extract names from the damaged records.

National Archives Record Group

The National Archives record group for the 1851 census is HO107 and records are identified by piece, folio and page number.  Registration Districts were divided into sub-districts.

Helpful Links

TNA’s “Your Archives” has street indexes to the 1851 census on their wiki.

The North Atlantic Population Project website has documented the instructions given to the enumerators for the 1851 census.

Barbara J Starmans is a social historian, freelance writer and obsessed genealogist living in Richmond Hill, Ontario, Canada and has been doing genealogical research for the past 35 years. She is a graduate of the National Institute for Genealogical Studies in Toronto, Canada with professional learning certificates in General Methodology and in English Records and recently become an instructor for them with an intermediate course on Social History.

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