Census records

Census returns are compiled every ten years and began in 1801. Until 1841 they were statistical returns only, with no personal information.

Oldham Local Studies and Archives holds microfilmed copies of census returns for the years 1841-1901. The areas covered by these microfilms include Chadderton, Crompton, Failsworth, Lees, Oldham, Royton, and Saddleworth.

There is also free access to all census returns 1841-1921 at Oldham Local Studies and Archives via the Ancestry and Find My Past websites. You can access both sites for free at Oldham Local Studies and Archives or any Oldham Libraries branch.

Information in the census

The following information is in the 1841 census:

  • first name and surname
  • age (rounded down to the nearest five for those aged 15 or over)
  • sex
  • occupation
  • whether they were born in the county in which they were enumerated (Y or N indicating Yes or No)
  • whether they were born in Scotland (S), Ireland (I) or Foreign Parts (F)

The following details for each individual are included in the 1851-1901 censuses:

  • the full address and, progressively with each census, more information about the dwelling itself
  • first name, middle names (often just initials) and surname
  • relationship to the head of the household
  • marital status
  • age (at last birthday), entered in the appropriate column according to sex.  Often helpful to know if a name is not clear.
  • sex
  • occupation (their source of income)
  • county and parish of birth (if born in England or Wales)
  • country of birth (if born outside England and Wales)
  • whether they suffered from certain medical disabilities, although this was rarely completed
  • language spoken, only in Wales (from 1891) and on the Isle of Man (from 1901)

As well as information provided in the previous censuses, the 1911 census includes:

  • a married woman’s ‘fertility in marriage’ – length of present marriage and number of children born of that marriage, living or deceased
  • detailed occupational data
  • extra detail on nationality
  • exact birthplaces for people born in Scotland or Ireland

The 1921 census provides greater detail than any of the previous censuses, with expanded information about marital status, employment and education:

  • for the first time ‘divorced’ is included as an option for marital status
  • detailed occupational data about ‘Profession, Trade, or Service’ is accompanied by the name of the employer and details of the place of work
  • the exact age of children is recorded in both years and months
  • the educational status of children aged 15 and younger is included for the first time

House numbers were rarely given in earlier census years, and in rural areas you will often find only the name of the village or hamlet.

Census dates

  • 1841 – 6 June
  • 1851 – 30 March
  • 1861 – 7 April
  • 1871 – 2 April
  • 1881 – 3 April
  • 1891 – 5 April
  • 1901 – 31 March
  • 1911 – 2 April
  • 1921 – 19 June