The 1851 Census

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The 1851 Census

The 1851 Census was taken on the night of Sunday 30th March 1851.

Basic facts about the 1851 census

Taken on the night of Sunday/Monday 30/31st March 1851.

Details recorded for each person were:

  • Name and surname
  • Relationship to head of family
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Marital status
  • Occupation
  • Place of birth
  • Whether they were blind, or deaf and dumb

The following information was recorded in the schedules about each dwelling and person residing there on the night of the census:

  • the address
  • name and surname of "each person who abode in the house on the night of 30th March 1851"
  • relationship of each person to the head of the family
  • each person's marital status ("condition")
  • age and sex. The sex was indicated by the column that the age was recorded in
  • rank, profession, or occupation
  • where born, parish and county (or if born outside of England or Wales, just the country)
  • whether they were blind, or deaf and dumb

There were some changes made to the information that had been collected 10 years before which provide some very important extra information for family historians, each persons marital status, their relationship to the head of family and their place of birth. In addition ages were given as the exact number of years at the previous birthday rather than rounded down to the nearest 5 years.

Accessing the 1851 Census

Ancestry have a complete index of the 1851 Census for England, Wales, Scotland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. To access the Ancestry records you need to take out a subscription but a 14 day free trial is usually available.

Findmypast also have a complete transcription of the 1851 census for England, Wales, Scotland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, accessed either via an annual subscription or on a pay-per-view basis or currently you can take advantage of a 7 day free trial.

The Genealogist site has transcripts for all of England and Wales. They can either be viewed by taking out a subscription or as pay-per-view.

Free access to the 1851 Census

As with all the censuses from 1841 to 1901, many local record offices have reels or fiches for their areas.

FreeCEN have good coverage for some counties, mainly in Scotland but they also have 100% coverage for Cornwall. As the name says, this site is free.

You can also access the Ancestry 1851 census records for free on site at The National Archives in Kew. Many libraries also have Ancestry and/or findmypast available for free from within the library.

The Unfilmed 1851 Census Records

The 1851 census records for around 218,000 individuals in Lancashire for part of the Manchester, Chorlton, Salford, Oldham and Ashton-Under-Lyne registration districts were water damaged many years ago due to flooding. As a result many were too fragile to be filmed or no writing was visible, but a 14 year project from 1991 to 2005 by the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society (MLFHS) recovered information from around 82 per cent of the damaged records, that is just under 180,000 details recovered from just under 218,000 details affected by the flooding.

The transcriptions and reconstructed images which have been retrieved from severely damaged pages are now available online for the first time.

There is a free search and a lot more details of the restoration here and you can see the full details of missing indexes at [Findmypast:fmpdeeplink-articles/census-for-england-wales-and-scotland-missing-pieces].

We always welcome any comments, suggestions or corrections - you can contact us at the feedback email address on the left