Genealogy Hints and Tips


Ancestor Search:

  First Name:
Last Name:

Searching the Census Collections

Let’s begin with some hints and tips that you can apply to whatever site, online of offline, that you are searching the census on. These tips are provided to help you use the Census records to their fullest and find people you are searching for quicker, with less mistakes – that’s not to say that you won’t make any mistakes though as you’ll see by the first bullet point!

* Always allow for mistakes from either party (you as the searcher or the site/place you are using for your search - for example, it's rarely advisable to specify an exact year of birth, and we generally recommend allowing a margin of 2 years either side. When Censuses were taken, for example in 1851, the year of birth was rounded up to the closest 5 years.

* Even if the age is shown correctly on the census, the year of birth can still be incorrect - that's because, by convention, the year of birth is calculated by subtracting the age from the census year. This is a very common cause of misunderstandings!

* Don't complete every box on the Search form – Start with less then build up your search, the more results you get the harder it can be but as you whittle away adding in more information you’ll be able to pick up on results that consistently appear. If you fill in lots of boxes then usually only one of them needs to be wrong on the census for you to completely miss the person you're seeking.

* It's often a good idea to search on a persons first name alone, especially when one of the names is unusual for the period. The more unusual a surname is, the more likely it is to be spelled incorrectly. This is a particular problem when searching for people who have migrated from a country where a language other than English is spoken so take your time and use help provided from sites such as where they allow a phonetic search to take place brining up spelling that are similar in style and sound to what you are searching for.

At FamilySearch you can specify two members of the household (the head of the household and one other) to cut down the number of results. It's even better at Ancestry, where you can specify the forename of a spouse, or the forenames of the parents. It's usually a good idea to search for one of the younger children as the lower the age the more likely it is to be shown correctly on the census. All of this added data can help you narrow your search down.

Get a 14 day FREE trial at today and search their complete Census Collections (1841-1901 England, Wales and Scotland)

Another solution is at, where you can search the England & Wales censuses for any two people in the same household (and they don't even need to be related!). You can also search by address and by occupation. This can complicate things somewhat if you don’t know what you are doing so work your way up to this site – Their Census Collections are also not currently complete so if you are stuck let’s hope the Census year you are searching is available.

* Don't assume that every member of the household was at home on census night - many had to travel in connection with their work. Of course, it was the father and head of the family who was most likely to be away, which is why being able to search for other household members, kids within the family etc through the likes of Ancestry and Findmypast is so good.

We touched on this earlier but I wanted to reiterate this. All of the UK censuses (bar Scotland) that you will want to search can be found for free at the Church of the Latter Day Saints site -

The site is a little hard to use and you’ll find a lot of clutter surrounding what you need but it’s worth checking out a basic search functionality before you make the move to the larger more complete family history site such as



Getting Started


The Next Steps


Genealogy Site Reviews


Questions or Comments?

Do you have Questions or Comments for All About Genealogy? Want a review to be included in the website or have your own views on material talked about here? Coming soon - The Q&A board..



Lifers 120x60


The site provides genealogy news and advice and whilst we take every care to ensure the information displayed here is accurate and up to date details of all offers, articles and products are subject to change without notice. © 2007

From the gallery