Monday, April 30, 2012

Finding U.K. Census Record Images

There are three U.S. based online historical record sites that I use to find census records -, and  They also have collections from other countries, but only FamilySearch of those three provides free coverage.

My goal this morning was to obtain an image of the 1851 England and Wales Census for the James and Hannah (Rich) Richman family in Wiltshire, including my great-grandfather Thomas Richman (born in 1848).

1)  I started with (a subscription site, but I have only a U.S. subscription).  I selected the 1851 England Census collection, which has an every-name index and linked images (if the user has a World subscription) and searched for "Richman" (exact) and saw:

There were 397 matches for all of England.  The matches provide a name, an estimated birth year and the County, but not the Town, parents or relationship.  I narrowed the search to "Wiltshire, England:"

There were 46 matches, which is more manageable.  What about for "Thomas Richman?"

There were 3 matches, including the likely candidate with an estimated birth date of 1849.

Since no town, birthplace, parents names, or relationship is listed without an Ancestry World subscription, can only be used as a finding aid.

2) (a free website) has an 1851 England and Wales Census collection (an index only).  I searched for "Richman" (exact) and saw:

There were 364 matches for this search, so I added a Residence term of "Wiltshire" to the search and received:

No matches - apparently the Residence field was not indexed for the FamilySearch collection.  What about "Hilperton?"  There are none for Hilperton either.

What about with a given name?  I searched for "Thomas Richman" (in all of England):

There were 16 matches, including the one for my Thomas Richman (found by clicking them until I found him):

The indexed information is name, age, gender, birthplace, relationship and record type.  There is no indication of the census enumeration place or a list of other family members.  The FamilySearch index is based on the FindMyPast subscription site, and a FindMyPast subscription is required to view the census image.  I don't have one.

I've found that the FamilySearch site is the most useless for my purposes, since an enumeration place is not provided.

3) (a subscription website) also has the 1851 U.K. Census in their collection.  I entered "Richman" in the Last Name field (exact) and there were no matches:

The First Name field is highlighted in yellow above, is a First Name required (even though the field doesn't indicate that it is?)  I added "Thomas" (exact) to the First Name field and received 4,455 matches.  Apparently, the "Exact" box doesn't work for first names!

I tried "Thomas" (exact), "Richman" (exact) and County = Wiltshire" and there were 5 matches:

The information provided here is the name, the birth year, birth location (county, not town), profession, and relationship to head).  The enumeration place, the parents names and the family members are not listed.

However, only two of the matches are a "Thomas Richman" - the others are a "Thomas Thomas."

My Thomas Richman born (estimated) in 1849 is the first match.  I clicked through to see the census image and a PDF file opened:

This image provides the census page and I can see all of the family members (James, Hannah, Thomas, and  James.

However, I cannot advance forward or backwards in the collection to see other pages in the town or parish.

My conclusions from this short study are:

*, without a World subscription,  is useful to find persons of a first and last name in all of England, and a town or parish name, and a county name,  can be used to narrow the search.  Another option is to go to a FamilySearch Center and use the Ancestry collection there for free.

*  The search on FamilySearch .org for persons in the English census is very limited and pretty much useless at this time without a FindMyPast subscription.

*  The Search on has some quirks (you need to use a given name, and the Exact search box doesn't always work as expected).

*  The census page image can be seen on

*  My recommendation for searchers with an Ancestry US subscription, and an subscription,  is to use to find candidates in English towns and counties, then to use to find and save the images.

*  If you don't have an subscription, or an subscription, then your best bet is to go to a FamilySearch Center and use on the computer system.

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Copyright (c) 2012, Randall J. Seaver

1 comment:

David Newton said...

Another good bet to find out what you might want is FreeCen. That will not provide a copy of the image, but it will provide a full household transcription and the reference to find the image. You could then input that reference into to pull up the image. FreeCen also extends to Scotland. It is far from complete, but it is the best free option around.

It should also be noted that what Randy has said only applies to England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. Scotland and Ireland are separate cases. The only place to find images of Scottish censuses is the Scotslandspeople website and the images are very expensive and only available on a pay-per-view basis. Ireland only has two censuses available as the rest were destroyed at various points. The Irish National Archives have digitised and indexed both censuses with the resources available for free.