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histpop online / material from TNA

Collection in context

In addition to almost 200,000 pages of published population reports for Great Britain and Ireland, 1801 to 1937, the Online Historical Population Reports (OHPR) collection presented on this site also includes over 5,000 colour images of documents from The National Archives (TNA). These represent a sample of the vast collection of TNA records relating to the administration of the census and registration processes prior to the Second World War, and have been chosen to illustrate and contextualise the OHPR collection.

Ranging from census enumerators’ books for England and Wales to instructions, forms and maps used for and correspondence and papers relating to census taking and local as well as national registration, the selection uniquely illuminates the changing machinery and methods used for the gathering of population data in England and Wales. Users of this site will find the following TNA material:

TNA enumerator’s books:

Census enumerators’ books (CEBs) for England and Wales (1841 to 1901)

While few of the original census schedules have survived, the CEBs for England and Wales - containing transcripts of the census schedules as well as the many traces left by tabulators and checkers - are held by TNA. Histpop displays selected sample pages of each type of enumerators’ return for the censuses 1841 to 1901. For later years blank schedules and enumerators’ books are provided, showing in detail what information was collected.

TNA Census - other:

Instructions and forms used in, and correspondence regarding, the taking of the census in England and Wales in 1841 and 1861 to 1931.

These include for example:

Instructions issued to local officers regarding their duties in taking the census, and to clerks engaged in the classification and tabulation of census data;

Dictionaries of codes for the classification of occupations and industries; Forms used for the collection and tabulation of census information, such as: specimen of census schedules distributed to households, institutions and vessels in England, Wales and the Channel Islands; enumerator’s memorandum books, in which enumerators recorded their progress in delivering and collecting census schedules in their enumeration district; forms for the division of registrars’ sub-districts into enumeration districts (plan of division); and forms for the registrar’s return of families and houses in his registration district;

General Register Office (GRO) correspondence with various governmental and non-governmental bodies in preparation of the census, for example regarding census legislation; the preparation of, and questions to be included in, the census schedules; the co-ordination of census activities between England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland; the adjustment of enumeration district boundaries; the appointment of staff; the tabulation and publication of results;

Memoranda and minutes of census sub-committees appointed to deal with various aspects of census preparation, for example the revision of census methods and documentation; the scope of census enquiries; definitions of terms; classification of information for the abstracting of census information.

TNA maps:

Maps used for taking the census

Around 1,500 maps used at the time of various censuses during the period 1861 to 1921, showing registrar's districts and sub-districts, and containing manuscript additions recording changes of the administrative geography.

TNA - Registration:

Material relating to the administration of the registration of births, marriages and deaths, including:

Instructional circulars issued by the GRO to local registration personnel in England and Wales, which illustrate changes in registration procedures, especially during and after the First World War;

Correspondence between the GRO and registrars of births, marriage and deaths regarding local registration issues, such as the appointment of registrars, the establishment of Register Offices or changes to registration district boundaries;

A selection of inspectors’ reports monitoring the performance of local registration personnel, as well as checking the establishment of local Register Offices and the keeping and storage of registers;

Papers relating to the preparations for, and administration of, the system of National Registration during and after the First and Second World Wars; Correspondence and memoranda relating to the organisation and institutional context of the GRO itself.

The OHPR project would like to thank The National Archives for allowing these records to be made available through this website, which will also act, it is hoped, as a pointer to the wealth of material relating to the collection of population data available to researchers at TNA.