Census records are a useful tool for researching family history. However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is not able to divulge personal information relating to individuals. Information of this sort is held securely for 100 years before being made available to the public. The management of personal census information is covered by several pieces of legislation: the Public Records Act 1958, the Census Act 1920, the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Freedom of Information Act 2000, and the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.
Census customer services can provide advice and expertise for finding statistical data from previous censuses, but cannot supply any personal information. This includes details requested by individuals for census information relating to themselves. The Freedom of Information Act does not apply in these cases.
Personal information from the censuses conducted between 1801 and 1901 is available from the National Archives, which is also the custodian of the 1911 Census records and intends to make these generally available online in 2012.
The National Archives offer advice on family history research and how to get started. Other organisations offer assistance in tracing friends and relatives. Some may charge for their services.
The management of personal information is covered by several pieces of legislation: the Lord Chancellor's Instrument no. 12 (1966) made under the provisions of section 5(1) of the Public Records Act 1958, the Census Act 1920 as amended by the census (Confidentiality) Act 1991, and the Data Protection Act.