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The National Archives
Section of census document (Catalogue reference: RG 10/4197)

This is a brief guide to researching census records. Census records from 1841 to 1911 are available online, so you can search for the records from home. Many Irish records have been lost or destroyed - the 1901 census is the earliest and most complete census of Ireland that survives.

  • What do I need to know before I start?

    • Try to find out:

      • the name of the person
      • their approximate date of birth
      • a geographical location of birth or residence
  • What records can I find at The National Archives at Kew?

    • All census records at The National Archives (1841-1911) are available online.

  • What records can I find in other archives and organisations?

    • Census records for Scotland (1841-1901)

      Search for and view digital copies of the census of Scotland from 1841 to 1911 online at Scotlandspeople (£There may be a charge for accessing this information. Searching indexes may be free.).
    • Census records for Ireland (1901 and 1911)

      Look at the National Archives of Ireland website for indexed and digitised 1901 and 1911 census records for Ireland (including Northern Ireland).
    • 1939 Register Service

      You can request data from the 1939 Register Service (England and Wales), as recorded on the 29 September 1939. A National Registration number was assigned to each person after the following data was collected from each household:

      • Names
      • Sex
      • Date of birth
      • Occupation, profession, trade or employment
      • Residence
      • Condition as to marriage
      • Membership of Naval, Military or Air Force Reserves or Auxiliary Forces or of Civil Defence Services or Reserves, if recorded

      Please note that data will only be released for individuals who have died and are now recorded as deceased.

  • What other resources will help me find information?

    • Book

      Read Census: The Expert Guide by Peter Christian and David Annal (The National Archives, 2008).

    • Websites

      Search transcripts of the full 1881 census of England and Wales on FamilySearch and partial census transcripts for England, Wales and Scotland on FreeCEN.

Did you know?

A census of the population of England and Wales has been taken every ten years since 1801 with the exception of 1941. The 1841 census was the first to list the names of every individual. Earlier censuses covering 1801 to 1831 only recorded the number of people in each area.

From January 2009, a phased online release of most of the information from the 1911 census has been taking place, but the most sensitive data will be unavailable until 2012.

From 1851 onwards, every person's relationship to the head of the household was recorded. Due to rounding down, mis-transcription and human error or invention, some details, such as age, may vary between censuses.

Censuses started in Ireland in 1821 and in Scotland in 1841.