The Genealogist

Anatomy of the Census Page

Not every piece of information is obvious to the casual observer, so to make sure that you extract every useful piece of information from the census page read on:

The front of each census enumeration book contains a standard section explaining how to complete the records. More useful is the page describing the streets and places recorded in that book, as they often provide clues to the route the enumerator took, often helping you locate a property. Large streets may fill several books which may not be continuous, and the routes often detour up side streets and alleys. The books also contain a chart which the enumerator filled in with the figures he totalled at the bottom of each enumeration page. These statistics are the ones which could be easily collated for early release to government.

Every page holds the details of up to 25 individuals divided over a number of full or partial households. Entries do not always include full addresses, so knowing a specific address for your ancestors doesn't always help. The page header contains information about the general location and includes area information on the district, ward or township, the enumerator filled out whatever information was appropriate. An odd page may be missing or torn, but generally we have very complete records for most places.

How the page is numbered

Always record the full reference to an entry, even if you make copies for your files, so that it can be found again by anyone consulting your research.

The full reference consists of four sections, a Class number, Piece number, Folio number and page number.

A typical reference will look like this and will enable you to identify a single side of one page in an enumeration book:-

RG13 / 51 / 122 / 21

RG13: Class number The National Archives class reference number, here indicating the year 1901. It appears with the Piece number on a label on every image.

51: Piece number The enumeration books are bound into volumes containing up to 200 sheets for archiving. The bound volume is referred to as a Census Piece and given a unique number. Each book page holds details of up to 25 individuals and a single enumeration book contains 20- 40 sheets.

122: Folio number As each book making up a Piece has identical pre-printed page numbers and there can be many books bound in a complete Piece, page numbers reoccur. To uniquely identify every sheet making up a Piece, it is stamped with another number in the top right hand corner, next to the page number.

21: Page number As the Piece and folio numbers are unique, it is not really necessary to record the page number. The combination of the Piece and Folio numbers provide reference to a single sheet containing no more than 50 people, so the page number only narrows it down to one side of that sheet, or 25 people.

The census information

Census page

It may appear obvious and some columns are self explanatory, but others warrant a little explanation. Here we look at the last available census the 1901 which has a little more detail than previous forms, but the principal categories of information are the same.

The Header holds information identifying the area being enumerated using general terms, such as district, village or parish. The section at the start of each book usually has a better description of the the actual coverage of the streets is.

Column 1 Schedule number: Not an address as such, but is used by the enumerator to refer to the census form delivered to the household. It isn't useful as the number will be different from one census year to another for the same house.

Column 2 Address: A full street address may not appear except in large towns and cities. More often you will see just a road name, or even less, just the village name. Farms and some houses may be identified by name.

Columns 3-7 House: This group of columns is used to indicate if a house is occupied, empty or uninhabited. Column 6 indicates a place such as a barn or shed not used permanently for housing but where workers may be living temporarily. The last column is used to note the number of rooms where families are living in less than 5 rooms.

Column 8 Name and Surname: This is self explanatory.

Column 9 Relationship: How the occupants are related to the Head of Family allow you to see the structure of the household and identify someone with a different surname as part of the family.

Column 10 Condition: Knowing whether they are Married, Single or Widowed also provides information about family structure, showing whether a couple are married, or a widower living with his sister.

Columns 11-12 Age: Self explanatory except for the 1841 census, where ages of adults were supposed to be rounded to the nearest 5 years.

Column 13 Occupation: Again this is self explanatory, although you sometimes get an occupation crossed out and another inserted in another hand. These are the "approved" job categories used by the clerks creating the statistics.

Columns 14-15 Employment: Indicating whether a worker, employer of others, self employed or working from home.

Column 16 Where born: Usually indicates the the place and county or the country where born, but often contains mistakes.

Column 17 Disabilities: Not politically correct by today's standards and getting broader in definition as you work down the list.

Other marks

Clerks' tally marks: Used when the clerks are totalling and transferring the statistics. They may be just neat ticks, but often it is heavy crossing out using thick crayon which can obscure information, particularly ages.

Double strokes // are used to indicate the end of the list of people living in a dwelling, single / ones are used to divide different households sharing a dwelling.

The enumerator adds up some very basic statistics at the foot of each page and transfers these to a table in the enumeration book.

Follow the other census links to find out more:

RootsUK Research Guide by David Tippey

Getting Started

Researching Your Family History Using RootsUK

  1. Getting started
  2. RootsUK
  3. Smart Search™


The census

  1. What is the census?
  2. What does it tell us?
  3. Possible pitfalls
  4. Using the census
  5. Paleography (how to deal with difficult handwriting)
  6. Working with the census

Anatomy of the census page

  1. How the page is numbered
  2. The census information
  3. Other marks

About census indexes

  1. Using census indexes

About census transcripts

Using census transcripts

  1. Search terms


Birth, marriage & death records index

  1. What they provide
  2. Why buy certificates?
  3. Finding certificate references
  4. 1837 to 1983 data
  5. 1984 onwards
  6. Ordering certificates
  7. Additional features

Other resources

London Electoral Roll (2005)

Back to top of the page

Copyright © 2006 S&N Genealogy Supplies / British Data Archive


For family history software, books, census on CD and much more visit: and