Updated 24 Oct 2002

WIRKSWORTH Parish Records 1600-1900

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Info about the Census

Here's some interesting and useful information about the Census 1801-1941

Census of England and Wales

There has been a census every ten years since 1801, excluding 1941. However, only those that date from 1841 are of real value to the family historian. The administration of the early census returns 1801-1831 was the responsibility of the Overseers of the Poor and the clergy.

Most of these early returns were unfortunately destroyed, although in some isolated instances they have been preserved. The census returns for 1841 were the first to be kept and, as far as the general public is concerned, the information is released by the Public Record Office after a hundred years. For example, the public were given access to the 1891 census returns on 1 January 1992.

The census was taken on the following dates:

10 Mar


No longer exists, with a few exceptions

27 May


No longer exists, with a few exceptions

28 May


No longer exists, with a few exceptions

30 May


No longer exists, with a few exceptions

7 June


30 March


7 April


2 April


3 April


5 April


31 March


2 Apr


100 year closure - available 1 Jan 2012

19 Jun


100 year closure

26 Apr


Destroyed by fire during WW2



Not taken due to the war.

The 1841 census was different from the previous censuses in two important respects. Firstly, the administration passed into the hands of the Registrar General and the Superintendant Registrars, who were responsible for the registration of births, marriages and deaths. Many recent reforms, including the 1836 General Registration Act, which had culminated in the introduction of civil registration had resulted in a new layer of central and local government.

When the 1841 census was being prepared, it was seen as a logical step that it should also supervise the census. Consequently, civil registration and census taking became inter-related; any change in local boundaries or districts affected them both.

Secondly, the emphasis changed from questions concerned with population size, and the numbers engaged in certain occupations and the condition of the housing stock, to a much more detailed analysis of individuals and families, and the communities in which they lived.

Census returns are held at

  • England and Wales
    • "Family Records Centre"
      1 Mydlleton Street

  • Scotland
    • New Register House,
      Princes St,
      Edinburgh EH1 3YT

  • District Libraries
    • normally have copies of the returns for their own area

  • LDS
    • have copies of the census microfilms. These usually need to be ordered unless you are visiting a branch of the LDS in the same area as the returns in which you are interested.

It is advisable before making a trip to a library or record office, to check the exact whereabouts of specific census returns in order to avoid a wasted visit. Also some libraries may have a limited number of viewers and a booking may be necessary.

In 1851, in addition to the census of population a census was taken of places of worship. Although this was purely voluntary, most places of Worship made returns.

Further Reading

  • An introduction to the Census Returns of England & Wales, Sue Lumas, 1992, FFHS
  • Marriage, Census and other indexes for Family Historians (4th ed 1992) J Gibson & E Hampson.
  • Census Indexes in the Library of Society of Genealogists, J E Kenyon, Society of Genealogists
  • Making Sense of the Census: The Manuscript Returns for England and Wales, 1801 - 1901, Edward Higgs, PRO Handbook No. 23 (HMSO, London, 1989)

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