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Here is the gateway page to the Wales Lookup Exchange which has separate sections for;


Census Dates





To prevent  double counting, people were listed  at the addresses where they were on census night, or to which they intended to return the following day after a night's work or travel. It is simplest to refer to the separate censuses by the dates either side of the midnight of census night.


  Census Returns





Brief overview

A census of the population of England & Wales was first taken in 1801, followed by others every 10 years except for 1941 when the country was again at war.

When decennial census taking was first mooted in 1800, the country was at war with France and was suffering bad harvests and food shortages - it would not be surprising if government wished  to find out more about the makeup of the population at large.

The range of questions asked were added to as the century progressed and social and medical scientists came to the fore.

After each census an official  Census Report was issued including all manner of statistics and commentary.

Apart from 1841 the censuses were held in the spring to avoid distortions caused by seasonal movement of agricultural workers in the summer months - see Census dates above



These were taken for statistical purposes and contained no individual names as such (with some local exceptions).
They were organised by one John Rickman who worked for the House of Commons,the parish based data collection  being  devolved to the officials of the Poor Law system and the established church.

Although there were differences between the 4 returns, the questions broadly revolved around ;

The clergy were also required to provide data on baptisms, marriages and burials for a range of dates over the previous century.
An additional question in 1830 was the number of illegitimate children born in a parish.


1841      (The TNA reference is HO 107)

Following the establishment of a civil registration system, responsibility for census taking was taken over by the GRO in 1840. The census was also based on the new registration districts, themselves modelled on the older Poor Law unions which sometimes overlapped 2 or more counties - this latter fact should be kept in mind if having difficulty finding a particular place in what may seem to be the obvious enumeration district.

All that remained was for the registrars to divide their sub-districts into smaller enumeration districts (maximum 200 inhabited houses), and appoint an enumerator for each one.

Enumerators had to be able to read and write, be temperate, orderly and respectable - as an example, my gg grandfather, Benjamin Evans, schoolmaster, seems to have been the enumerator for Llanybyther in Carmarthenshire for the 1851 census.

See here for the detailed Instructions to the Enumerators from the 1841 Census

The census was held on a single night of the year (to avoid double counting), the idea being that they would include every person at a house "that night" - one apparent omission (in 1841 only) was not to give clear guidance to include night workers who would be returning to that residence next day, another was how to deal with lodgers and boarders.
Household schedules (with instructions) were to be issued to each household ahead of  census night, to be completed by the householder and collected by the enumerator the day after census night. A Welsh translation of the schedule was available from 1841 onwards but the data provided had to be written in English.
Should the householder have difficulties with completing the schedule the enumerator was required to assist and no doubt ended up completing some entirely - for example, it is recorded that in 1871, in Anglesey, the enumerator completed the majority.
The schedules were then to be copied into printed books - it is digital copies of these enumerators' books that are now used for searching/transcribing/indexing.

This first  'named' census could be seen as something of a 'suck it and see' affair, it was designed to be as simple as possible -  the principal difference between it and those that followed is the absence of relationships shown between the residents; the requirement that ages were rounded down to the nearest multiple of 5, unless under 15; and that the place of birth question was only to say whether born in "the same county or not" (also whether born in Scotland, Ireland or Foreign parts).
All factors which we genealogists now gripe about !

No named account was made of the crews/passengers of merchant vessels for this census, unless they were ashore of course. A head count was carried out.
Neither was any count  taken of those aboard fishing vessels in this census, likewise itinerants/travellers which was unfortunate given the census was taken in June when annual movements were well under way.

Royal Navy personnel ashore on census night were fully enumerated as households or institutions. The position with those on board ship isn't  clear, a head count was carried out - if they existed no named returns seem to survive for 1841/51.

Soldiers serving abroad were never fully enumerated until 1911, those living in barracks within the UK were.

On this page on (scroll down, down) there are details of 'known problems with the 1841 census'  for Wales (work back to find the England page)

Searchable indexes on Find my past


1851     (HO 107)

This census was a considerable improvement on 1841 - "relation to head" being introduced, also  marital status, and "where born" to include county and parish/town in that order.  A straight forward "Age" question replaced the convoluted rounding down  of 1841. The number of a house in a street was now to be included although that assumed that 'proper addresses' existed at all at this time in most places.

The first medical question appeared - householders were now asked to indicate if anyone was deaf, dumb or blind.

The position with the merchant marine, fishing vessels, inland navigation vessels, itinerants & travellers from 1851 onwards is too complex to describe here -  the book mentioned above has chapter and verse.

See here for Census instructions for 1851

Searchable indexes on Find my past


1861    (RG 9)

The storage of the 1861 returns in particular could be described as haphazard in the extreme and they didn't get into the safe hands of the PRO until the 1960s, unfortunately sections are permanently missing.

From 1861 commanding officers of Royal Navy ships, either in home of foreign waters, were required to fully enumerate their officers and crews.

On this page on (scroll down, down) there are details of 'known problems with 1861 piece numbers' for Wales (work back to find the England page)

Searchable indexes on Find my past


1871    (RG 10)

The medical question was  expanded to include those who were 'imbeciles, idiots or lunatics'

Searchable indexes on Find my past


1881     (RG 11)

This return has been indexed/transcribed for the whole of the UK, a combined undertaking by the Genealogical Society of Utah [Mormons] and the FFHS, it is searchable online on their own site or Find my past

See 1881 census place name index for details of 1881 census Registration District overlaps  for All Wales/Mon and a place name index for the Dyfed and Glamorgan counties only. 


1891     (RG 12)

In 1891 & 1901 an extra question was introduced in Wales only to ascertain whether people spoke only Welsh, only English, or both.

Additional questions were introduced, namely boxes headed Employer/Employed/Neither

Searchable indexes on Find my past


1901      (RG 13)

See  for a fully searchable index online .

See the Genuki page Directions to Enumerators on the completion of 1901 Census Enumeration Books, and Genuki for other census related odds and ends


1911 (RG14)

The surviving 1911 census pages consist of the original household pages and the enumerators' summary books.

See  for a fully searchable index online

On 1911 census co uk is a guidance section for Welsh Records with useful Welsh translation tables


1921 census

See 1911 census org uk for summary information

The Census Returns become available for public inspection after 100 years, or 1922 in this case.


1931 census

The 1931 returns were destroyed by fire in WWII. 

See 1911 census org uk  for summary information


1941 census

Not taken because of WWII


General notes and guidance

Reading list;


Welsh Counties, then and now





The boundaries and names of many counties in England and Wales changed both in 1974 and again in 1996. This can make it difficult to locate parishes and records.

This is an outline summary of the boundary and name changes in Wales in 1974 and 1996. In 1996 some new County Boroughs were also formed in some urban areas. However be aware that those counties which reverted to their pre-1974 name in 1996 may not have reverted to exactly the same geographical boundaries.

The changes may also be seen in map format by clicking the  links below  

                                                        PRE 1974                                                                  1974-1996                                                                  1996

Anglesey / Ynys Mon


















Wrexham County Borough




Conwy County Borough


South Glamorgan

Mid Glamorgan

West Glamorgan




Merthyr Tydfil

Neath Port Talbot

Rhondda Cynon Taff

Vale of Glamorgan

County of Swansea





Gwent (included a small part of Glamorgan)

Monmouthshire, Newport, Blaenau Gwent,Torfaen










The recent changes in the county boundaries and names mean that some records have also been moved causing problems for Family Historians, therefore recommended reading for anyone researching in Wales is:

" RESEARCHING FAMILY HISTORY IN WALES" by Jean Istance and E.E.Cann., Federation of Family History Societies (Publications) Ltd. 1996. ISBN 1-86006-030-7.

This book provides the following information:


Research books





These are mainly books I have personally, there are many others available.

Listed in no particular order

The following have been recommended by other researchers;



Genuki, a route map





What is Genuki ?

The aim of Genuki is to serve as a large virtual reference library of genealogical information that is of particular relevance to the UK and Ireland. It is a free service using computer resources that are kindly provided by various universities and individuals.

Its front page can be accessed at Genuki.  
Or go direct to the Wales page .
There are separate county Surname Lists reached via Welsh genealogy, these are for you to post your own interests, and check out the names other people are researching.







The International Genealogical Index is a database containing well over 100 million names , mainly baptismal entries from parish and non-parochial registers all over England & Wales, together with a smaller number of marriages. Neither deaths or burials are included.
The Index has been compiled and computerised by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
It is arranged under counties, the entries are listed in alphabetical order of surnames grouped under spelling variations as decided on by the compilers.
The surnames themselves are arranged in alpha order of forenames and then chronologically.
Marriages are indexed under the names of both parties.
The coverage of any given parish is not necessarily complete.
In Wales the LDS has not been allowed to microfilm or index the parish registers so the Welsh IGI contains only a small number of entire registers. But this is less serious than it seems as they have been able to use the BTs instead.

The IGI can be a most useful resource but should be used as a finding aid only, indexed entries should be checked to the actual register etc.
There is a problem peculiar to Welsh research in that the method adopted to cope with the patronymic system,when registers pre 1813 also contained no surname column , assumed incorrectly  that in all cases a son took his father's christian name as his surname.
For example, a 1783 bapt for William son of John Thomas would be indexed under John, not Thomas in the Surname Index.
It gets worse, if there are more than 2 father's names, the rest are discarded completely, so the actual surname may not appear at all never mind in the wrong place.
There is also a Given Name index, where, for example, all the Williams are grouped together.

The IGI is available on fiche  for searching at many Records Offices, and some FHS centres, as well as the LDS FHCs where name extracts  are increasingly downloadable to CD for taking away with you.  [see also Patronymic)


  Welsh language






Some sites with links to many other Welsh language sites;  "Cymraeg, a Dysgu'r Gymraeg" (Welsh, and learning Welsh)   "These pages are designed to help you find books, tapes, CD-ROMs and online resources to do with the Welsh language, focusing particularly on Welsh dictionaries. They are aimed mainly at Welsh learners and therefore written in English. You won't find much here about Welsh literature, music, history, politics, genealogy, tourism, mythology, recipes, Celtic jewellery or whatever, although some of the links will still be useful to you........."

Welsh/English and English /Welsh online dictionary (Univ of Wales, Lampeter)   "apertium-cy, the first free automatic translator for Welsh"