The census

A fact of life imposed on the population by governments round the world. The British do this very well! A census is a snapshot and provides some useful information depending on the questions asked. The Domesday book required by William the Conqueror (a Norman) was the first. However a list becomes increasingly less useful because of changes.

1801 was the first 10 yearly census of the English people. Family historians know how useful the censuses from 1841 are. Repeating the census at regular intervals gives far more information and allows spotting of trends.

A census need not be of people. The Agricultural Survey from 1901 illustrates data gathered for different purposes. In a highly developed country such as ours, where the population is mostly town based, it is essential to keep an eye on food production, making arrangements to import if it looks as though there will be a shortage in six months time.

Lists are compiled for other specific purposes. The Tithe schedule lists the charge on each household to support the parish as already discussed. A Muster Roll lists everyone able to fight in the event of an invasion. The 1803 Lieutenancy List for Deal was drawn up with an eye to possible invasion by Napoleon.

The ten-yearly census can be consulted up to the 1911 issue at modest cost at The National Archives, Kew or if you take out a subscription to Ancestry (up to 1901) or FindMyPast. Local Libraries may also have copies of the 1801 to 1831 records. It is worth delving into Church records as the tithe system (final one following the 1836 Tithe Commutation Act) was in place for centuries. Canterbury Cathedral Archives contain several “Annual Lists of Tithe Apportionments” before 1843 for Deal Parish.