Contents of the original 1861 census returns

The census is organised by property and household(s) within that property. For every property the following information is given:

  • Road, street, town or village and number or name of property

    - Rural properties may simply be referred to as, for example, "Cottage"

  • Whether inhabited

For inhabited properties, each household is given a

  • Schedule No

    - Each household filled in a census form, and this number refers to that form. If there are multiple households within a property, each household will have a different Schedule No.

Start exploring the 1861 census

For each person in a household the following is given:

  • Forename and surname
  • Relation to Head of Family
  • Condition [as to marriage]

    - ie married (usually abbreviated to "Mar" or similar), unmarried (usually abbreviated "Unm" or similar), or widowed ("W")

  • Age

    - For babies this may be given as days ("D"), weeks ("W") or months ("M").

    - There are separate columns for age of males and age of females. This has been been taken into consideration when capturing the index data, so allowing you to be able search on sex.

  • Occupation
  • Where born

    - Town and county or country

  • Whether blind or deaf and dumb

A convention is used to separate entries for one house and also multiple households within one house. You will see small diagonal line just before some forenames. A double line separate houses; a single line separates households within a house.

Place name information A variety of place name data can appear on the header for each census page. The most useful ones are probably the following:

  • [Civil] Parish or Township: This should in theory always be present, though the person who originally completed the records often missed this out.
  • City or Municipal Borough: This does not always appear.
  • Muncipal Ward: This does not always appear.
  • Parliamentary Borough: This does not always appear.
  • Town: This only appears where the place is actually a town, as opposed to village or hamlet or some rural place.
  • Hamlet or Tything: This only appears where the place is actually a village or hamlet, as opposed to a town or some rural place.
  • Ecclesiastical District: This does not always appear.

Whether the above information has been entered appears to depend on how carefully the census returning officers fulfilled their duties. There is frequently a failure to provide place names (especially the parish) on pages following the first page dealing with properties in that place; we have tried to deal with such ommissions in the index data.

For crews of Vessels and residents of Institutions there are slightly different forms. However for many institutions the entries have been made on the normal (household forms). You can search for inmates of institutions and for vessel crew members just like the occupiers of any other place. But in these cases, the address field will contain the name of the institution or the name of the vessel. In the case of vessels, the home port is also given.

Registration District Details These details, which appear at the start of each set of census records, give the Superintendent Registrar's District, Registrar's Sub-district, Enumeration District Number, and a written description of what area the district covers (parish, towns, etc).

The digitised images of the census returns have been created from copies of microfilmed images of source documents, provided by The National Archives. The quality of the digitised images is generally quite good, and the entries are quite legible. However this is not always the case, and images may be difficult to read where original documents were damaged.

The following data have been included in the index records:

Place data

  • Registration District: Normally present unless missing from the original.
  • Sub-district: Normally present unless missing from the original.
  • Parish: This should always be present unless absent from the original returns; ie even if the actual census page does not include the parish, it should normally appear in the index records.
  • Town: Present only if the place actually is a town, as opposed to village or hamlet or some rural place. (In the latter case, there will be neither a town name or a village or hamlet.)
  • Hamlet: Present only if the place is actually a village or hamlet, as opposed to a town; ie generally an index record will not contain both a town name and a village/hamlet name.
  • City or Municipal Borough: If present on the original page.
  • Muncipal Ward: If present on the original page.
  • Parliamentary Borough: If present on the original page.
  • Ecclesiastical District: If present on the original page.
  • Street

People data

Reference data

  • TNA Ref: This includes the TNA class (eg RG9 for the 1861 census), and the piece number, which identifies the microfilm roll containing the images of the original census returns.
  • Schedule No
  • Image No: This is the sequential image on the microfilm roll.
  • Folio No: This is the number of the folio (or sheet) printed on the original recto pages. Not always present.
  • Page No: This if the page number printed or written on the original pages. The page and folio numbers can assist identification of the microfilm images.
  • Entry No: This is the sequential number of the census entry on a page. This index value was is simply to aid location of the actual entry on the original page, and does not exist on the original.