Archive for 'census'

Searching International Records

There comes a time in most genealogical searches when the answers no longer reside in your home country. Immigration and migration have been common occurrences throughout human history, which means your search for a complete family tree will likely hit some snags along the way. The good news is there are some valuable tools for searching international records and as long as you understand the potential for mistakes, you can go a long way toward filling in the blanks.

English: Example of 1891 Census in England and...

Example of 1891 Census in England and Wales Source: The National Archives, London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Most countries of the world have compiled census data over the years, though some such as Algeria and Afghanistan have only been compiling data for the last few decades. Many more, however, have been keeping at least minimal records since the late 1800’s and before.  One thing you should keep in mind is the fact that all census takers have one thing in common, they are human! This means there is a margin of error you will likely have to deal with.

Tips for Searching:

Following Leads

Which international records do you need to search for your ancestors? As you can imagine there are millions of names listed in these resources and searching through a random database on a hope and a prayer would be the proverbial needle in a haystack scenario. First, you should begin to establish some kind of trail, in other words, your great, great grandfather Joseph Smith’s trail goes cold, but you know from local records or stories from the family that he faced prison time in England. You also know the last records of him are from 1862, which means he will not be found among the records for the Australian penal colonies, because the last convicts were transported there in 1859.

Family Members

There are two things you should know when it comes to talking to family members about genealogy. Number one, many of them may lack your enthusiasm for the project! If your aunts and uncles have begun avoiding your phone calls, this is a hint. Number two, when you do find a source that is willing to talk, pay attention! There is nothing better than first hand information handed down from the elders in your family.

Online Resources

Genealogy is easier today than it has ever been, thanks to the internet. There are literally millions of records available online, and many more than that available in hard copy. Several international records sites offer-photocopied records upon request and there are of course the paid ancestry research websites. The best advice for utilizing this resource is to start with the free services first, gather as much information as humanly possible before determining which online subscription service will best serve your needs. No point in paying for a service that does not go back far enough or has no records from your current country of research now is there?

The Role of the Census in Your Genealogy Research

One very important tool in your genealogical research is the census; however, they can also be problematic. When researching your lineage it is important to establish when and where a specific relative lived, which is one way the census is helpful. Yet, you have to understand that these records were compiled by other human beings and are not always error free.

Front page of the 2011 census form.

Front page of the 2011 census form. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


United Kingdom census results, particularly those dated 1841 and later are very valuable tools in that they were the first to list all members of a household. Previous census would only list the name of the head of the household, ignoring children, spouses and other relatives that might live under the same roof.

Census data is often considered the foundation of genealogical research and depending upon the era in which it was taken can contain a great deal of information. Let’s say you have traced the movements of a particular ancestor and you are pretty sure where they lived, but you cannot find property records to support your conclusions. A census of the area could tell you where they lived  and even where they were born (if this is missing from your research).


Many census data was often copied several times for different organizations, which increases the margin of potential error. At the end of the day, a fallible human being was the enumerator and there are bound to be a few mistakes.

What You Should Know

When it comes to researching census data you will want to become familiar with the manner in which they were taken and the meaning behind certain abbreviations. For example, in the 1841 UK census professions would be abbreviated, some examples include:

  • Ag Lab- agricultural laborer
  • FS- Female servant
  • Sh- shopman
  • M- Manufacturer
  • m- maker (boots etc…)


A census can be very important to your research, filling in the blanks and even helping you locate a particular ancestor who seems to have fallen off the map. That being said you have to be aware of their limitations and propensity for mistakes or errors. Utilizing census data is not difficult but may require a little reading between the lines, so to speak. As of 2012 the UK census data is complete and searchable from 1841-1911.


Unearthing History

Are you preparing to embark on a journey to unearth your family history? Genealogy is the study of family lines and heritage using historical documents and sometimes even DNA. Tracing one’s family tree is not a new practice, though in the early centuries it was mainly a tool to prove a claim to wealth or power, particularly royal ancestry. If you are new to the process, here are a few tips to get you started on your journey.

English: Genealogy of Ælfgifu, testatrix and w...

Genealogy of Ælfgifu, testatrix and wife of King Eadwig (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Essential Records for Family History Research

Unless you have a family member who has already started this process, you will want to begin with your closest family first. There are a number of tools you will want to acquire including binders, notebooks, sticky notes and of course pens! The first records you will want to compile will include:

These will give you your starting point from which you will migrate to other public records.

Census- UK

Census data can be very useful in researching family history. Data collection began in 1801 but detailed data would not be recorded until 1841 and every 10 years thereafter with the exception of 1941 (wartime). These records can tell you where a family member lived during specific time periods, which can lead you to birth certificates, marriage licenses and more. Locations:

  • National Archives in Kew- England, Wales, Isle of Men and Channel Islands
  • General Register Office Scotland- Scotland area
  • Public Record Office in Dublin- Ireland

Military Records

Military records as a genealogical research tool may seem obvious; generally, everyone knows that great-grandpa served his country. However, the potential for information can go well beyond the person who actually served. For instance, pension records can help locate collateral family members when the trail has gone cold. Children, siblings and even cousins may be located this way.
Emigration Records Ship’s Passenger Lists

At some point in your genealogy you are bound to come to emigrant ancestors, (this may not be true in all cases, but as a rule). This is where emigration records and ships passenger lists may be important in your research. Between 1890 and 1920, a large number of European emigrants boarded ships in Britain bound for North America. Many of these records are now open to the public, however since captains often required a person to be a British resident for six weeks people would often change their name.
Land Records

Last, but certainly not least are the land records. These are deeds and documents proving ownership, sales and inheritance of property. These records can be a very powerful tool in genealogy, particularly if you have hit a brick wall. Land record transfers were often witnessed by family members, which can help you, pick up the trail of your long lost great grandfather!

UK land tax redemption information can tell you who the owners and occupiers of a property in a given year. These records do not generally give a lot of information about the property itself, beyond the redemption value, but act as mini-census. If your ancestor owned or rented property there is a good chance, you can find reference to them in these records.