5455: Census 1841

The 1841 census was taken the night of 6 June 1841.

This was the fifth decennial census of the population of Britain but the first to record the names of individuals within households were recorded, along with ages, occupations and places of birth.

The census had to be taken in a single night, to avoid duplication, and the enumerators were usually schoolmasters. Each was assigned an enumeration district. Schedules were distributed to every household in that district and collected the next day; the enumerator checked the details and copied them into an enumerator’s book, while the original schedules were destroyed. The book was checked by the Sheriff Substitute and then despatched to the Register General’s office in London.

Relationships between members of the household were not given, and the enumerators were instructed to round down the ages of persons 15 years and over to the nearest five years. This, compounded by accidental or deliberate inaccuracies, means that birthdates derived from the ages given are often at variance with later records. In some instance the instruction to round down was ignored; particularly in Lewis records, children between 15 and 30 still living at home are given more precise ages, suggesting a greater degree of accuracy.

Birthplace details were also less specific than in later years, recording only whether or not the person was born in the county where the census took place, or whether a person was English, Irish or Foreign.

Information from ScotlandsPeople, which provides full access to the 1841-1911 census records online.


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