INTRODUCTORY LEVEL: National Census Records of Great Britain and Ireland. - Things Worth Knowing!
THINGS WORTH KNOWING ABOUT NATIONAL CENSUS RECORDS IN THE BRITISH ISLES.
One of the best resources for general information about ancestors online are the British and Irish National Census Archives. These records contain the following information.
The names of all the people in the house on the night of the census, the sex of each person, the relationship of each person recorded to each other i.e. Head of house, wife, son, daughter, adopted or boarder. The records also reveal the age and occupation of each person listed, together with their place (or county) of birth and the address of the house being surveyed.
WHAT'S NOT AVAILABLE
What isn't contained in the Census records unfortunately, is the maiden name of the female spouse - the wife of the hosuehold. Given that her age is listed - it's a matter of simple mathematics to work out the wife's Date of Birth however which is of some help when searching for her birth certificate subsequently.
The second thing to watch out for is the fact that secondary marital relationships are not recorded. That is to say, each household can only have one 'Head of Household' ..so if a married son or daughter is living with their spouse in their parents house the 'Head/Wife' relationship will not be recorded for them. A handy way of spotting such a relationship however is as follows:
Depending on the age of the people involved when you see the Transcript of a Census Household record that lists someone of the same surname as that of the household with the relationship 'boarder' this may indicate that that person is the husband or wife of either a daughter or son of the household and not a lodger in the strict sense of the word. Census enumerators were limited in their choices when it came to the relationships which existed amongst the members of the household.
ABOUT CENSUS CARRIED OUT
Census Available Online for Britain date from 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911. The reason why census information for 1921 on isn't available online is that these records remain under the management of the Registrar General and can by law only be released for general consumption 100 years after the date of the census. There was no census in 1941 in Britain because of the World War II.
Many online genealogy websites provide online transcripts and original images of all available British Census records at a cost.
The Census records in Ireland on the other-hand, both transcripts and original images are available free of charge from the Irish National Archives Offices Online. (www.nationalarchives.ie). Unfortunately the first national census of Ireland was carried out in 1901 and because of the 100 year privacy rule, only 1901 and 1911 are currently available. There was no Census carried out in Ireland in 1921 due to the Irish Civil War made it too dangerous for enumerators.
Hope this is some help to those searching for ancestral relatives in Britain and Ireland!