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Census data top tips! Part 1

Updated: May 5, 2020

So you have started researching your family tree? The first records you are likely to come across once searching online is the Census data. In the UK, the government first started collecting Census data in 1841. So these are the earliest records that are available to us. In 1841 the general population couldn't read or write so the government sent around people called 'enumerators' to collect the information.


Here is an 1841 Census from Finsbury:-



You can see that the information that they were asked to collect at this time was fairly basic. Name, age, sex, profession and whether or not they were born in the county that they currently live in.

They also used 'Do' meaning ditto and double slash // marks in the column to denote a new household. Some enumerators also used a single slash / mark to denote a lodger or visitor. You can see Anthony Clough age 30 and a cabinet maker, (and his wife Ann) is a lodger living in the Tennant household. Lodgers and visitors to the house were always put at the bottom of the family.


Another tip to remember when reading census data is that the enumerators just guessed the spelling of names. As the general population was illiterate not many people knew how to spell their own names and some didn't know their birth dates so ages can often be a few years out too.


Keep an eye out for my next blog post on later Census data.




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