Census returns provide a fantastic snapshot into the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and make a brilliant starting point for any local history study. You can also use them for a whole range of activities with your class – not only History, but Maths and creative writing.

Census returns are essentially big lists of everyone in the country, recording where they were living, how old they were, what their job was, and where they were born. Detailed census have been taken every 10 years since 1841. The records are closed for 100 years; the latest records available to the public are from 1911, with 1921 due to be released in early 2022.

Image of a census record - a page with information recorded in columns with addresses, names, ages, occupations, and birthplaces

These teachers’ notes include:

  • Background information on the census
  • Ideas for using the census with your class
  • How you can find your local census returns
  • Sample worksheet for a simple statistics activity