Every 10 years, beginning in 1801, a census has been taken in England and Wales apart from 1941 . They are a ‘snap shot’ of the population recorded on that date, indicating where individuals happen to be on census night. The first one that recorded individual’s names was the 1841, which is really useful for family and property researchers. The next census will be taken in 2021.

It is important when doing family history to gather as much information about the individuals you are searching for to ensure you have the right family on the census. For example having names, date of births, places of births, where they lived and jobs can help you sort through the results. You should start with the latest census – currently 1911 – and work backwards using the information you have already gathered. Learn more about starting your family history here.

TOP TIP: Look at the original images of the censuses as these may hold more information that what is indexed. And it is worth noting searches are based on transcriptions and transcribers do sometimes make mistakes.

At Suffolk Archives branches you can access the 1841 to 1911 censuses via Ancestry and Find My Past.

Censuses are closed for 100 years. The next one to be made available will be the 1921 Census, due to be released via Find My Past in January 2022. The 1931 (England & Wales) census was unfortunately destroyed by fire, and one was not taken in 1941, during the Second World War. Therefore, there will be a large absence of information about the population between the years 1921-1951. Although not actually a census, the 1939 Register is a valuable resource which can help bridge this gap.