Genealogy Information


The 9 Stages of Getting Started

1. Interested in Family History

2. Start at Home
3. Starting your Family Tree
4. Using BMD Records
5. Order Certificates
6. Collaborating
7. Census Records
8. Branching Out
9. Summary and Checklist


Moving on to the Census Records

Having used the birth, marriage and death indexes to find your ancestors, your family tree should now be starting to grow nicely. The next step in your research comes with the census records.

The census, taken every ten years, provides a perfect snapshot of a day in the life of your ancestors. It is enormously helpful in finding out where they lived, with whom and what they did for work. This can be invaluable for discovering an ancestors’ siblings, something which might take a lot of time if attempted by searching the birth indexes. It also helps to chart the life of your ancestors, if they moved around between censuses, changed occupation or marital status.

The census can be searched by name or by address, allowing an opportunity to trace the history of a house as well as a person.

The first modern census was the 1841 census; whilst it contains less information than the later censuses it is the first that recorded individuals. It also includes only approximate ages, as there was a policy in place of rounding down to the nearest five years. A 100 year secrecy rule is in place, due to the personal nature of the infomation contained, meaning that the most recent census available at present is the 1901 census. The 1911 census will be available from 2009.

As the census returns were a snapshot of a single day it can be the case that your ancestor is not where you would expect them to be. If they were visiting someone when the enumerator called they will appear on the list for the house they had called at.

Errors are inevitable in any record but particularly when you bear in mind that illiteracy was still rife in the 19th century. Ages are a definite source of potential mistakes. People were liberal with the truth in many cases. Each census has search tips to help guide you on how to get around any possible difficulties.

A rule of thumb is that less is more, the more information entered in your search, the more potential for errors to creep in. Keep it simple at first and then add information if you need to narrow down the results. Once you find your ancestor on the census you may find siblings that you didn’t realise they had, and with them more lines to investigate and add to your ever-growing family tree.

Discovering the area where your ancestors lived, and their occupations, may lead you to want to find out more about local history for the place, or to investigate their occupation, find directories for it and delve deeper.

Search for your ancestors in the censuses now on

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