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histpop online/ resources

Collection in context

This website contains a wide variety of resources. The majority of these are digital images of published population reports relating to the nineteenth and early twentieth century censuses. In addition, there are other resources, including machine-readable representations of tables published in these volumes; searchable copies of all the relevant parliamentary legislation and a large number of essays which provide contextual information about the collection and discuss key aspects of the census and registration processes. All of the material provided on this site, including web-quality images and high quality image files for downloading, is freely accessible to all.


This website includes all published census volumes for England, Wales and Scotland for the period up to and including 1931. Most of these census volumes include population statistics for different administrative areas across the relevant countries, as well as a wealth of information and commentary on other subjects relating to the society, economy and health of the population. For many of the census years there are 'general reports', which provide detailed explanatory information about the census, and for a number of years there are ancillary indices of places which can be used to locate administrative units across the country. Also available from this site are the various reports of parish register abstracts which were compiled for each of the British censuses up to and including 1841. These abstracts provide basic statistics for the investigation of population growth in the period 1801 to 1841. This site as a whole contains almost 200 volumes of reports relating to England and Wales, almost 200 Scottish and almost 150 Irish reports.

All published census volumes for Ireland up to and including 1911 are incorporated in the collection. In many respects the Irish census was the first modern census as it brought together reports on many more subjects than its British counterparts. For example, the Irish census included reports on agriculture, housing and vital statistics in a more comprehensive manner than was the case in England or Scotland. The reports of the censuses of Northern Ireland for 1926 and 1937 are also available on this site.

Also included in the collection is a volume relating to the National Register of England and Wales, taken in 1939.


histpop includes all annual reports of the Registrar-General (of England and Wales) that were published before the change of title to the Registrar-General's Statistical Review in 1921.

This includes the eighty-three annual reports of the Registrar-General published between 1836 and 1922, as well as all the decennial supplements issued between 1865 and 1923 and the special supplement issued to report on mortality from influenza during the period 1918 to 1919. These reports were published in the Parliamentary Paper series of Register-General’s reports. In addition, thirteen of the nineteenth century reports, which were published in a different version by the Registrar-General, are included.

Also part of the collection are all the annual and detailed annual reports of the Registrar-General of Scotland, published up to and including 1921. These include the sixty-four annual reports and the fifty-eight detailed annual reports, as well as the two supplements published in 1895 and 1906.

Other parliamentary papers

A selection of other parliamentary papers relating to population also form part of the collection. These include the report of the committee on taking the 1831 census; a number of papers relating to the costs of the censuses, when these were issued separately from the reports themselves; the report on the cholera epidemic of 1866, which was published as a supplement to the twenty-ninth annual report of the Registrar-General; the suggestions regarding the census made to parliament by the Royal Statistical Society in 1870; the complete text of the Treasury committee investigating the taking of the census in 1890; and the letter from the Registrar-General apologising to the people of Wales for his provocative comments on their honesty in answering the Welsh language question in 1891.

Archival material from The National Archives (TNA)

Over 5,000 images from the TNA's collection, relating to the administration of registration and census taking in England and Wales, including some material relating to the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands, can be found on this website. These include a large number of full colour examples of census enumerators' books from the various censuses, so that researchers can see the different markings used by the tabulators and checkers in the Census Office. See the introduction to TNA material in this collection for further information.


Machine-readable versions of all relevant parliamentary legislation are included on this site. Some may consider the Acts of Parliament to be ‘dry as dust’, but the complete collection of legislation shows clearly how the registration and census processes evolve throughout the period. This legislation is essential reading for anyone who wishes to fully understand the collection of population statistics in the British Isles.


This site provides almost 200 historical essays, written by Edward Higgs and Matthew Woollard, which contextualise the reports and the information within them. Aiming to aid users’ understanding of the material, these essays include articles on each and every census; on themes like industry, migration and workplace, and some key demographic information collected, including causes of death and stillbirths. A small selection of essays provide detailed biographical information on key people involved in the registration and census processes, including John Rickman - who in 1796 wrote a paper suggesting that the government would benefit from a census, and was the author of the first four censuses - and Thomas Stevenson who was the last Superintendent of Statistics in the General Register Office in London in the early twentieth century.