Paperback and eBook 362 pages
By David Annal and Peter Christian
Published by Bloomsbury London
First published in the United Kingdom in 2008 by The National Archives, Kew, Richmond, Surrey, now fully revised and updated to take into account new census data that has been published online in the last 6 years.
The book starts with the history of census collecting which dates to 1800 when John Rickman 1771-1840, an English government official, drew up the first Census Act. However from 1801 -1831 the census, taken every 10 years, just recorded the number of houses and people (male and female) and their occupations. These records are stored at County Record Offices and only a few transcripts are available at Kew. Not until the census of 1841 were details of individuals recorded, although not their exact ages, and these returns have survived.
The early census returns for Scotland 1801-1851 was administered from London. In 1861 The Census Scotland Act was passed but the 1901 and 1911 censuses were taken under the terms of the Census of Great Britain Act.
It wasn’t until 1821 that the first full Irish census was taken. However, the returns have not survived. The census returns for Ireland: 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 were mostly destroyed by the government. Only the censuses of 1901 and 1911 have survived.
Not well known is the fact that the suffragettes decided to boycott, not entirely successfully, the 1911 census in their campaign for women’s suffrage. The idea probably was the work of Emmeline Pankhurst who was employed as a register of births and deaths form 1898-1907. Emily Davison spent census night hiding in a cupboard in the Houses of Parliament. The book includes a few case studies, including the family of Charles Darwin. Although the Darwin name is missing from the index it appears under case studies. Reference to Thomas Hardy is also missing from the Index. The Appendix contains a complete list of all census dates for England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland.
There is an extensive analysis of free census indexes online as well as the leading commercial websites which is most informative. Good advice is given such as the electronic indexes all contain errors or omissions resulting from the transcription process. Serious researches should check out The Online Historical Population Reports (OHRP) collection at www.histpop.org which is hosted by the University of Essex. This is an excellent comprehensive guide to understanding the history of census returns and is suitable not only for the family historian but also the general reader.
Margaret N Loftus B A, Certificate in Genealogy UCD.