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
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.
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
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"!
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
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..