At the end of the 18th century the British Government decided it would be useful to have more information about the population, such as how many there were and where they lived. This was the beginning of the census, held at ten-year intervals since 1801.

Early census records are of limited value to our project because information was gathered 'by street', rather than by individual dwellings. In 1851 the census finally began to identify families with unique addresses and since that time the census has been held every ten years, excluding 1941. The most recent census was taken on Sunday 27 March 2011.

The data gathered during a census enables government and local authorities to target resources to schools, libraries, hospitals and other services.

There are various online entries about the history of the UK census, we particularly like Wikipedia's Census in the United Kingdom and the University of Portsmouth's Guide to Census Reports.

Page from 1911 census

Image of page from 1911 census

Page from 1861 census

Page from 1861 census