Census Returns


censusA National Census or count of all people and households in Britain has taken every ten years since 1801. It is the most complete source of information about the population that we have. The latest census was held on Sunday 29 April 2001. The next will take place on 27 March 2011 and will involve around 25 million households.

Every effort is made to include everyone, and that is why the census is so important. It is the only survey which provides a detailed picture of the entire population, and is unique because it covers everyone at the same time and asks the same core questions everywhere. This makes it easy to compare different parts of the country.

During a census everyone in every household in Britain is counted on the same night. Today we fill in our Census Returns at home but in Victorian times a census enumerator called at every house and filled in the census return for each household. A census provides population statistics from a national to a neighbourhood level, allowing central and local government, health authorities and many other organisations to target their resources more effectively and to plan housing, education, health and transport services for years to come.

Census returns are also an invaluable resource for people researching their family background and history. Currently only census returns from 1841 to 1901 are available for study. This is because personal census information has to be held securely for 100 years before being made available to the public.

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