Population census records were first taken in
1801, and have since been taken every ten years. The only exception
was in 1941, when we were at war. Prior to this only Parish Records
recorded the number of people, together with a crude description or
classification of occupations.
The early census returns, from 1801 to 1831, show
the number of people and houses - but no names. These do however,
give the first reliable indication of the population. On the 1831
census, additional information begins to appear, with a breakdown of
the numbers of men working in the main occupations of the day. These
were put into classifications, which were determined by the local
census enumerator, and so the results have to be treated with care.
Some of the classifications were factories, farming, trade, and
domestic service. These records are in printed form, and can be
viewed at most local libraries, or archives.
From 1841, the census is handwritten. This can
prove to be somewhat difficult to read as some were written in
pencil, and often the handwriting was so appalling as to be almost
At this moment in time, only the years up until
1891 can be viewed, as the records are closed for 100 years. Though
data from successive census returns are available to use
The census records can be seen on microfilm at the
Local Archives department. This means that a viewer must be
pre-booked in order to be able to use the census film. One
disadvantage is the quality of some of the films. Often the
1841-1851 census is particularly bad. This can be overcome by a
visit to the County Records Office, where better quality films are
Dependent on what information is being sought, the
census gives a number of valuable things. Such as the population,
and their movement around the country. The numbers and ages of those
receiving education, the 'job titles' of the day, and those in
receipt of Poor Relief.
The census returns are written on printed forms,
arranged by County, Parishes and Townships, and in each township
there is usually a street order in which they appear. Lists for each
census are available at the Library, and these give the number of
the film that needs to be used
Only census returns dealing with the Wolverhampton
area can be viewed locally. All of the census returns for the county
of Staffordshire, are held at the County Records Office, at
Stafford. The film there is of a far superior quality to that held
at a local level. Copies for personal use can be taken, but cannot
be photocopied without permission from the Public Records Office. At
a local level, a machine can booked, which will view and print out a
page of the census return. At the Stafford Records Office, a form
has to be completed listing each page and folio number that is
required. It then takes between 2 to 3 weeks before copies can be
picked up, or posted, to the researcher.
The following section lists, and describes the
information that is contained in each census from 1841 to 1891.
Click on the year of your choice.
The 1881 Census is particularly useful because it
has been name-indexed by the Mormons and the Federation of Family
History Societies. Some of the records for other years may have a
surname index. Much work is being done on this at a local level.
Many genealogy groups are indexing census records, to make searching
Depending on what information is required, the census returns
have much to offer. But as with all other documents, they need to be
used in conjunction with other sources.