The 1841 Census of England and Wales was the first census taken at the same time across the country. Enumeration Districts were made up of subdivisions of Civil Registration Districts, and were designed so one person could, in a single day, collect data from all households in the area.
A census schedule was delivered to every household a few days before the entry was due to be taken. This schedule was to be completed by the householder and then collected by the enumerator.
If the householder was illiterate, or could not fill in the form for another reason, the enumerator would help them to complete the schedule, but it was not uncommon for the enumerator to mishear what was said.
Only a very brief description of the address was entered on the return, but all household occupants were recorded for the first time.
The age of occupants over the age of 15 were rounded down to the nearest 5 years, but sometimes the enumerator would record exact ages, which is a great help to the family historian. Occupations were noted for the first time, but occupants' relationship to the head of the household was not recorded.
It did not give details of a person's birthplace, instead stating whether or not they were born in the county. If not, it was marked'N' for not in the county but elsewhere in England, 'S' for Scotland, 'I' for Ireland or 'F' for Foreign Parts.
If a household member did not know where they were born, NK was written. This stood for 'not known', which is always disappointing when conducting family tree research because it makes it much more difficult to ascertain their place of origin.
Most County Record Offices hold the 1841 Census for their local area. These can also be viewed at the National Archives.
The National Library of Wales holds the 1841 Census on microfiche for all of Wales.
It is also possible to access free census records on-line at freecen which is transcribed by volunteers and contains partially complete indexes, although more information is being added all the time.