1851 UK Census

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This article originally appeared in Finding Answers in British Isles Census Records by Echo King, AG.


The 1851 census was taken on the night of March 30–31. The questions on the census were addressed to all people residing in the house that night, plus night workers who would return in the morning. This census was the first to ask for specific relationships between people living together.

Questions Asked in the 1851 Census

The form used in 1851 called for the following:

  • number of inhabited houses
  • number of houses being built
  • number of houses uninhabited
  • order of enumeration
  • name of street, place, or road and name or number of house
  • name of all persons who slept in the home census night
  • relationship to head of family
  • marital condition (M, U, or W)
  • age in years
  • sex
  • occupation
  • where born (parish and county in Great Britain, country only if abroad)
  • whether blind or deaf-and-dumb

Tips and Facts about the 1851 Census

The TNA record group for the 1851 census of England, Wales, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands is HO 107, pieces 1466 to 2531.

This is the only year of the Scottish census where the census reference numbers do not match the parish number. The parish name should be included in the citation for clarity.

The CEBs are made up of seven preliminary pages and the nominal pages. Each page has twenty lines for names. Original paper forms are approximately 8" h x 12" w.

The replies to this census are mostly written in pen, which makes them more legible than 1841. However, the replies were written on blue paper, which didn’t film well.

Special religious schedules were distributed to churches in 1851. This special census asked questions about weekly attendance and other statistics for each denomination. These returns are available on microfilm at both The National Archives and at the Family History Library. Many of these returns have been printed and are available by county for England and as a whole for Wales. These returns can be useful in determining which nonconformist chapels were in a given area and how popular they were with the public. This information may help you locate non-conformist ancestors.

The returns from the Manchester area have been heavily damaged by water. The Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society has spent considerable effort to recover about 180,000 names from these pages. Their index is available on CD and can be ordered from the book shop.

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