Censuses are taken by governments to establish the numbers and characteristics of a population. Census and land records allow you to trace your ancestors through each generation of a family tree. You may be able to follow where a relative lived through each decade, or discover when they moved house or started a new job, and how their family evolved through births, deaths, and marriages. Furthermore, your ancestors’ households will often reveal the names of their siblings, which would be difficult to trace using the birth indexes alone.
Included in this category are more than 342 million local and national census records, rate books, electoral registers, and land tax documents.
The earliest censuses only recorded statistical details for England, Wales & Scotland. The first to record the details of individuals was the 1841 census, although it contains less information than the censuses that followed. The 1841 census enumerators were instructed to round down a person’s age to the nearest multiple of five. A person aged 69, for example, was enumerated as 65. Due to the personal nature of census information, a 100-year secrecy rule is in place. This means the most recent census available is the 1911 census, which was released early (with some information redacted) after an appeal lodged under the Freedom of Information Act. On Findmypast, you can view the previously hidden information in the 'infirmity' column of the 1911 census for England, Wales & Scotland. If your ancestors filled in this column, you'll be able to see information about your family's health in 1911.
The first full government census of Ireland was taken in 1821 with further censuses every ten years from 1831 through to 1911. No census was taken in 1921, due to the War of Independence, and after that, the first census of the population of the Irish Free State was taken in 1926. After 1946, censuses have been taken around every five years, apart from 1976, when it was cancelled to save money.
For various reasons, few Irish census records survive today. The original returns for 1861 and 1871 were destroyed soon after they were taken. The 1881 and 1891 returns were pulped during World War 1, probably due to the paper shortage. In addition, the returns for 1821 to 1851 were, apart from a few survivals, destroyed in the 1922 fire at the Public Record Office at the start of the Irish Civil War. The fragments of nineteenth century Irish censuses that do survive can be explored in the record set Irish census 1821-1851. The census search forms for 1841 and 1851 also provide great details from the early returns.
Today, the 1901 and 1911 Census of Ireland is held by the National Archives of Ireland and is searchable on their website. We provide census substitutes to help you fill in the missing gaps, including Griffith’s Valuation 1847-1864, one of the most widely used resources to trace your Irish family in the 1800s. It contains information about households that lived through the Famine period until the start of civil registration in 1864. In addition, the Landed Estate Court Rentals offer a wealth of information about land occupation in mid-19th century Ireland. Originally published to organise the sale of bankrupt estates these records contain information about tenants, rented lots, tenancy terms, and boundary maps. Over 500,000 tenants are included in this collection, and it deals with more than 8,000 estates around the country.
We also have a range of local censuses available to search.
Electoral registers and other official documents also offer another avenue to pursue when using census substitutes to build your Irish family tree and a range of these can be found on Findmypast.
More than 678 million records are included in United States and Canada census category. The first U.S. census was taken in 1790 and a new census has been recorded every ten years since. The taking of a census every decade is a legal obligation of the federal government, outlined in the United States Constitution. The counting of every man, woman, and child is required in order to determine the number of delegates each state may send to the U.S. House of Representatives, where representation is based on population.
Up until 1940, enumerators, or counters, hired by the U.S. government went door to door in order to count every person. If someone wasn't home, the enumerator returned. However, as thorough as some enumerators were, there were still occasional errors due to issues with literacy, embellishments about age or time of naturalization, and simple misspelling of names.
Due to the sensitive nature of census information, every census is held to a 72-year privacy rule before it is released to the public. Included in this category is the full U.S. census collection, from 1790 to 1940.
This collection contains over 6.7 million records available from Australia and New Zealand, including the ever-important electoral rolls – a foundation source of genealogy. There are records spanning every state and territory in Australia, as well as several important New Zealand collections, from a period between the 1840s to the mid-1900s. Using electoral rolls forms an important part of the family history research process. As enrolment is compulsory for all eligible voters (with the exception of Norfolk Island), there is a strong chance that one of your ancestors can be located through these records.
Electoral rolls contain valuable information such as name, address, occupation and polling place. Because census data is not always available, electoral rolls often make an informative alternative to census data.