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The Census, Past and Present

I expect you will have returned your census form by now but if you haven’t it doesn’t take as long as you think to fill it in (and apparently it’s even quicker to submit online). I’m probably sad but I quite enjoyed filling in the form knowing that I was part of a process that started in 1801. There is talk that the 2011 census may be the last…we shall see.

In England and Wales a full census has been taken every ten years since 1841, apart from 1941 during World War II. The information collected is used to plan services such as housing and transport. However once 100 years has passed information about individual people is released such as their name, age, family relationships, occupation and where they were born. These details are an invaluable aid for historians, especially those tracing their family history.

The first full census of England and Wales took place in 1841. Right is a page from the 1841 census showing Robert and Mary Ann Evans (writer George Eliot) at their house in Bird Grove off the Foleshill Road.

With every decade more information was asked during the census so later years show many more details as seen from the following 1901 census page showing Pepper Lane and Bayley Lane, just around the corner from where the Herbert stands today (pictured below).

The census images were taken from the genealogical website Ancestry which contains a wealth of family history resources. The History Centre has a subscription to the library edition of the website which users can access free of charge using our family history PCs. We also have census information for Coventry, Warwickshire and other counties on microfiche. Unfortunately the History Centre is still closed for repairs but we hope to re-open soon. When we do re-open please ask any if you have any questions about using the census and we will be happy to help.


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