Census Records


Official detailed censuses of the Island have been made every 10 years, with the exception of 1941, since 1821 - the first UK national census was in 1801. In 1821 and 1831 the enumerators were asked only for simple totals of males and females, plus rudimentary information of ages and occupations. In some places, but not apparently the Island, the working lists of households constructed by the enumerators survive; thus on the Island these censuses supply little more than numbers of people in each of the parishes.

The web pages on demography show such population figures including those taken from earlier records. A few lists of householders exist from the 18th Century - those for Douglas, 1730 and Castletown 1757 are available; such lists were generally made for church cess (tax for repair) purposes.

In 1841 printed forms, called schedules, were issued which had to be given to each head of household in the week prior to census night (a Sunday), collected the following day and then entered into the Census Enumerators Books. The enumerator was not responsible for checking the accuracy of the information given by the household except to avoid obvious errors - since this was in the days of widespread illiteracy it is very likely that the enumerator was responsible for filling in the schedule for many. In 1871 they were asked for this information and even as late as 1871 the percentages varied from 6% to 65%!. Regrettably few of the original schedules survive - they would have given an excellent survey of literacy at the time.

The CEB's for 1841 and subsequent censuses have survived and are released under the 100 years rule - the latest being 1901.
These censuses asked for details of those resident on the nights of:
1841: June 6/7
1851: March 30/31
1861: April 7/8
1871: April 2/3
1881: April 3/4
1891: April 5/6
1901: March 31/April 1 (Easter Sunday being the 7th April)

Such information included family name and first Christian name, age, marital status, relationship to head of household, occupation, where born and whether handicapped (deaf & dumb, blind, lunatic ..)

Structure of the nominal pages in CEBs: England and Wales, 1841-1891

Description of column


Number of schedule

Not in 1841.

Address information

In 1841 the term 'place' was used, but longer headings produced similar responses.

Houses, inhabited, uninhabited and building

Not in 1841 or 1851. In 1901 inhabited, in occupation, not in occupation and building.

Number of rooms occupied if less than five

Only in 1891 and 1901.

Name and surname

'Names' in 1841.

Relation to head of family

Not in 1841.

Condition (as to marriage)

Not in 1841.

Ages of males and females

In 1881-1901 'age last birthday', but this was not a real change.

Rank, profession or occupation

In 1841 'profession, trade, employment, or of independent means'. In 1891 and 1901 'rank' was dropped.

Employer, employed, neither employer nor employed

In 1891 only employer nor employed

(three columns)


Employer, worker, or own account

In 1901 only.

If working at home

In 1901 only.

Where born

In 1841 whether born in the same county as residence, or in England, Scotland, Ireland or Foreign Parts.

Whether deaf-and-dumb, blind,

None required in 1841; limited to blind and imbecile or idiot, lunatic, deaf-and-dumb in 1851 and 1861. In 1901 'feeble-minded' instead of 'idiot'.

Language spoken

In Wales only in 1891 and 1901, the question being limited to English, Welsh, or both.
Children under three excluded in 1901.
This question was asked re Manx in 1901 and 1911.

[taken from Mills and Schurer]

Districts and sequence of entries in the CEBs

Taking Santon (the Island's smallest parish) as an example, the two districts were defined as:
So much of the Parish of Santan as extends from BALLALONNEY BRIDGE to MOUNT MURRAY BRIDGE including both sides of the highway and adjoining Kirk Marown, Kirk Malew and Kirk Braddan.
From BALLAGLONNEY BRIDGE to MOUNT MURRAY BRIDGE not including the highway and adjoining the sea shore and Malew.
Although the districts did not change between 1851 and 1871, nor was there much, if any, new building in the parish (the population declined slowly from 1851) both the order and addresses differ between the years - in some cases simple transcription errors can be noted (e.g. Keigs Croft becomes Kings Croft)

Some study has been done on identifying the census enumerators as they were obviously key players- the Census Office had a clear picture of what constituted a suitable candidate:

The enumerator, in order to fulfil his duties properly, must be
a person of intelligence and activity; he must read and write well, and have some Knowledge of arithmetic: he must not be infirm or of such weak health as may render him unable to undergo the requisite exertion: he should not be younger than eighteen years of age, nor older than sixty-five: he must be temperate, orderly and respectable, and be such a person as is likely to conduct himself with strict propriety, and to deserve the good-will of the inhabitants of his district. He should also I be well acquainted with the district in which he will be required to act and it will be an additional recommendation if, his occupations have been in any degree of similar kind.

taken from Mills and Schurer


Features peculiar to Manx records

The dates for the census were chosen to avoid holiday periods, however some visitors were included. When, in the late 19th Century, the Island became a major tourist resort for the North of England the season was restricted to some 10 or 11 weeks from late June through to early September.


A local copy of the CEB's was made prior to sending the original CEB's to London; this local copy apparently utilised spare CEB's and differs in some minor ways from the London copy. Thus there are two different microfilms - that in the Manx Museum is of the Island copy; both sets are available via LDS FHC's. See brief comment by B. Lawson[Laws97] re the differences in the Douglas CEB's

Alongside this civil census there occurred the first and only Religious Census of the British Isles which gave numbers attending church (or chapel) on Sunday March 30, as well as number of children registered at Sunday and day schools. The records for the Isle of Man were thought to have been lost - however a local copy of these was also made and was recently found buried in the archives of the Manx Museum.


As for 1851 a local copy of the CEB's was made - but for these years keeping the same order - thus as for 1851 two LDS microfilms of these censuses exist - according to Brian Lawson who discovered this during the course of indexing these censuses such duplication can be useful in resolving poorly written names. The microfilm of the manx copy also contains copies of Enumerators comments and letters to/from London. (LDS film numbers 00992093-00992101 give 1851-1871 census with parishes in alphabetical order).

1871 and 1881

These two censuses corresponded with the Kinsale Fishing season when large numbers of Manx fisherman (1,151 in 1871 and 2,022 in 1881) were away fishing. In fact in 1881 some 531 (of whom 511 could be traced back to Peel) were actually counted twice! Special arrangements were made to enumerate mariners - H.M.Customs generally enumerated those on board ship - such counts were generally entered against the nearest mainland enumeration districts - in some cases distorting total population counts. The Manx fishermen appeared to have been enumerated by the Kinsale authorities and the counts returned to London - however as they appeared to have left Peel on the early morning of census night they also appeared in the Island CEB's. This double count was recognised but only after the initial population statistics had entered the literature. The Island authorities however have always used the corrected figures. M Wolllard has used this double enumeration to check on the accuracy of the enumeration process and shows that in this case the two sets of results were indicated no serious discrepancies.


All the CEB's from 1841 through to 1901 are available on microfilm, both in the Manx Museum and also via LDS Family History Centres. The 1881 CEB's for the UK and Isle of Man has been transcribed by the Mormons and is now available on CD-ROMs and online at <http://www.familysearch.org>, the 1901 census is on-line (though not free) at <http://www.1901census.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.html>.

However the CEB's are organised by district - the order generally reflects that of the enumerator's route in collecting the schedules - thus unless electronic copies are available, an index is essential unless you wish to search some 55,000 entries. The IoM FHS have indexed the 1851(transcript also available) and 1881 censuses (also available as part of UK 1881 census available via Church of LDS ('Mormon's) ; copies of the 1841, 1851, 1861,1871,1891and 1901 indices are available from Brian Lawson <http://www.iomfhs.im>- follow research link.

Problematic features for Family Historian

It is a record of the status quo on one particular night - it does not attempt to give family structure e.g. young daughters may be away from their parental home as servants and thus counted under their employer. I have already mentioned the missing fishermen in the 1871 and 1881 censuses who would appear under the name of the vessel probably in the CEB's of Kinsale.

It relied on the information supplied by the head of household - this may be intentionally or, more likely, unintentionally inaccurate. In closely knit communities (e.g. the rural parishes on the Island) it would be unlikely that obvious falsehoods would escape the enumerator. However ages were often remembered incorrectly (or sometimes deflated as for some women) - thus calculated birthdates will sometimes differ from one census to the next.

The place of birth may not reflect the place of baptism - if the return was filled in by an employer this place of birth might reflect the location of the servant's family. In the 1881 census one finds entries 'Liverpool, Isle of Man' which may indicate that they considered themselves fully Manx but happened to be born across! If the children of a single family have widely different places of birth then it indicates that the family moved in search of work (sometimes including brief periods in England).

Spelling of many names was often phonetic and thus may differ from one enumerator to another - transcription errors can also occur.

In the IoMFHS transcriptions it would appear that less attention was paid to occupation and that in some cases a full entry was truncated and re-interpreted by the transcriber.

For a researcher interested in family/household structure the alphabetisation during the transcription of several of the parishes by the FHS can pose a problem as it destroys what ever structure was apparent in the CEB's (luckily not all the parishes were so treated, many had two listings one as per CEB and a second alphabetic index.)


An excellent survey of various topics connected with the Victorian censuses is given in:
Local Communities in the Victorian Census Enumerators' Books ed D. Mills and K. Schurer 1996 (ISBN 0-904920-33-X) Local Population Studies Supplement (available via Dept of History University of Essex, Colchester UK)

M. Woollard "Shooting the Nets": A Note on the Reliability of the 1881 Census Enumerators' Books Local Population Studies #59 pp54/7 Autumn 1997

B.Lawson Which 1851 Census IoM FHS Journal XIX #2 pp 48/9 July 1997

Public Records Office Census Online London:2001 (ISBN 0-95411968-0-5) - though dealing with the 1901 census contains an excellent discussion on the entries within CEB's

 [Genealogy Index]


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2001