Census Data

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The first census for the whole of Britain, except Ireland, was taken in 1801. However no central archival material survives from the 1801 census of from those taken in 1811, 1821 and 1831 apart from a few schedules deposited in local record offices. The bulk of the census material was destroyed once the official statistics had been compiled and published as Parliamentary papers. These papers, found in the larger public libraries, formed the basis for the 19th and 20th century population levels and trends.

From 1841 the census has been collected by the office of the Registrar-General. The data was collected by enumerators appointed for each sub-district, and the returns for 1841-1891 survive. Those for England and Wales are held on microfilm at the Public Record Office, London, but no index of surnames are available. The Scottish records, for which the Registrar-General for Scotland assumed responsibility in 1861, are kept in the Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh. In addition, many local family history societies have indexed the personal names for the census returns for their particular district. The official census records are subject to the the one hundred years confidentiality ruling, so that the census returns for 1901 onwards are currently not available for public consumption.

Census Dates

The 1841 Census was taken in June, but it was found that some itinerant harvest workers 'escaped' the count as they were sleeping out rough. Thereafter it was decided that the Census would be held on a Sunday at the beginning of spring.

bullet1841     6 June
bullet1851     30 March
bullet1861     7 April
bullet1871     2 April
bullet1881     3 April
bullet1891     5 April
bullet1901     31 March

Census Data

Any reliance on census data must take account of the fact that it is only as accurate and as complete as that provided to, and then duly transcribed by the enumerator. This said, it is possible to track families over ten year periods because, as far as practicable, the boundaries of enumerator districts between 1841 and to at least 1891 were unaltered.


The 1841 Census data is rather scanty. It is arranged by households (or by institution, eg work house or prison), but does not indicate the relationship to the head of the household. Ages of those over 15 were rounded down to the nearest 5 so that people could be classified according to age bands. Thus a person recorded as being 20 equally have been any age between 20 and 24. The occupation of each person is noted, albeit it briefly. Unless a person was born in Scotland, Ireland or other foreign parts no reference is given to the place of birth. The census only records whether or not the person was born in the same country as they were currently residing.


From 1851 the returns furnished more complete information on each household. Each individual's relationship to the head of the household is noted. The enumerators also attempted to record actual ages and places of birth. The occupation/s are, in many cases, more fully described. As an illustration of this, one Fretwell described himself as "a scissor putter togetherer"!

1881 Census

The Mormon Church, in conjunction with numerous family history societies, has completed an National Index of the 1881 Census. The database is available in CD ROM format, and is searchable both by individual, and by household.

Fretwell Census Data - 1881

A listing of all Fretwells located for the 1881 Census on Sunday 3rd April is provided in two sections of this section of the website - collated by Household and by Place of Birth. Non Fretwells are also identified in a searchable table for the household listings..

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This section was last updated on 04 January, 2008