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Why And When Was The British Census Introduced?

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Gillian Smith Profile
Gillian Smith answered
The first official census took place in 1801.
The 1801 census returned information on numbers of households, individuals, occupations etc., but did't include names, addresses, relationships within households. The 1801 census for Amlwych in Anglesy is the exception to this rule and is very informative for anyone researching their Amlwych ancestors.

By 1841 additional information was added, names and occupations were recoded but not family relationships. It was only noted whether or not the individuals were born in the county where the census was taking place , this was recoded as yes or no. It was also noted whether they were born in Ireland, Scotland or Wales . This usually took the form of I, S or W for the latter countries.

After 1851a lot more information was added such as place f birth and relationship to head of household. In later census's in Ireland,Wales and Scotland languages were noted such as Welsh, Irish or Gaelic, in order to record the number of individuals who either did not speak English or who were bilingual.
There is a campaign in progress to try and get the 1911 census return released before the 100 year rule.
Kath Senior Profile
Kath Senior answered
The reason for the government establishing the census returns every 10 years was mainly to determine whether the population was increasing or decreasing. However it was also to determine if the number of poor could be supported by the country as a whole.

Prior to the first official census in 1841 some local head counts were made at irregular intervals from the Domesday period in 1086 and some areas have people listed from the 16th century. In 1841 it was decided that the information should all be gathered on the same night and for 1841 this date was set as 6th – 7th June. This information still only recorded names and a rough approximation of age except for children under 16 where this had to be exact.

Information gathered increased with each census and now contains more detail on individuals than ever before. At present these returns can only be viewed when 100 years as passed and so 1901 is the latest that can be accessed.

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