Guide to the 1911 Census of England and Wales

The 1911 Census of England and Wales contains much more detail than that provided on any previous return and is considered to be one of the most important censuses because it gives details of a family before the outbreak of World War 1, and includes the details of many young men who unfortunately died in the war.  

It lists the name and surname and age of everyone living in the house at the time of the census, and their relationship to the head of the household.  Visitors, servants, lodgers and boarders are also listed.  The individual's marital status was also recorded.

Columns were added to record the duration of the present marriage and the total number of children born alive to that couple.  The figure was split between two more columns in which the number of children alive and/or dead was recorded.

The advantage of this is that it provides details of the number of children born to the couple who may have subsequently died, this information not being available in previous censuses.  These details provide the opportunity to peruse the GRO Index of births and deaths to discover the full details of these children.  

The mother's maiden name is provided before the September quarter of 1911 in the General Register Office's free index of births, this information not being provided elsewhere.

This was especially useful to me because I was able to find another child born to my relatives that I did not know existed because he was born and died in 1906.

Occupations

Employment was recorded in much more detail in this Census - columns were added to state the Industry or Service with which the worker was connected and whether or not they worked at home.  The householder also had to be more precise about the branch of profession, trade or manufacture they were involved in.  

If they were engaged in any trade or manufacture, the kind of work they undertook, and the item made or material dealt in had to be indicated, along with the industry or service they were connected with.  Occupation codes were used so that the government could discover which industries were growing or declining.  

It also stated whether or not they were an employer (domestic servants did not count), a worker (working for a employer), or working on their own account. This was only if they did not work for others or worked for a trade employer.  If the person worked at home, this also had to be detailed.

Birthplace

Your ancestor's birthplace was also recorded, and because they completed the schedule, it sometimes gives more detail of their place of birth, listing their actual birth address, which was the first time this was recorded in this much detail.  A birthplace code was included on the Census by the enumerator.  

If a person was born outside of the United Kingdom, their birth country was recorded.  If the person was born outside the UK, but in another part of the British Empire, the name of the dependency or colony was recorded, along with the Province or State.

Other Nationalities

There was also a place to state whether the person was a British Subject by parentage, Naturalised British Subject (also gives year of naturalisation) or if of foreign nationality, whether French, German, Italian, Russian etc.

Infirmity

A column was provided on the census so that the head could state if any members of the household were 'totally deaf' or 'deaf and dumb', totally blind, a lunatic or imbecile or were feeble-minded.  The age at which the person became inflicted was also recorded.

Census Address

Another major change on this Return was that the property address was now entered on a separate page. The head of the family was written on this sheet, along with the numbers of the Registration District, Registration Sub-District and Enumeration District. 

Original Census Schedules

This is the first time the original schedules were not destroyed, so you are able to see your ancestor's own handwriting, but please be aware that approximately 5 percent of these schedules were damaged by water several years ago, so they are more difficult to read.  You can also read any additional comments they may have added to the record.

Suffragettes - the boycott of the Census

Some women boycotted the census because of their frustration the government had not granted the vote to women.  In some instances, women refused to complete the form and in other instances women stayed away from home on the night, so they were not able to be recorded.  Their rallying call was that 'if women don't count, neither shall they be counted' and some wrote 'votes for women' across the schedule.

Other Information

The number of rooms in the house was also recorded, and the head of the house had to sign the schedule to certify that the information provided was correct to the best of his knowledge.  This is especially exciting because you are able to see your ancestor's signature.

1911 Census headings at a glance


  • Name and Surname
  • Relationship to the Head of the Family
  • Age and whether male or female
  • Condition
  • Years of marriage
  • Total children born alive
  • Children still living
  • Children who have died
  • Personal Occupation
  • Industry or Service with which worker is connected
  • Whether employer, worker or working on own account
  • Whether working at home
  • Birthplace
  • Nationality of every person born in a foreign country
  • Infirmity

Where to find the 1911 Census

You are able to view it at the National Archives and the National Library of Wales.

You are able to search the 1911 Returns online at Find My Past, The Genealogist and Ancestry.ancestry You can view a household transcript at each of these sites. There are many different ways to subscribe to any of the sites.