The Census Returns 1841 - 1921

The decennial census returns began in 1801 and have continued to the present day, taken every ten years with the exception of 1941. For the census years 1801 to 1831 the census simply comprises a record of the total number of males, females and children under the age of 15. No names or any other information was recorded. There are just a handful of parishes throughout the country where the census enumerator recorded more information than was required and in these instances names and other information is recorded, but these are exceedingly rare.

In 1841 the format of the census changed and the enumerator was now required to record the name, age (rounded down to the nearest 5 years for persons of 15 years and above and rounded down to the nearest year for children under 15), occupation and a simple ‘Yes’ / ‘No’ answer to the question “were you born in the same county” (i.e. as the one in which the census was taking place).

The format changed again in 1851 with the enumerator now required to record the number of inhabited houses and those uninhabited, the name of the head of each household and the relationship of everyone else to the head of the household. The marital status of each individual (recorded as ‘Cond.’ standing for ‘Condition’), the age to the nearest year, occupation and the parish and county in which each person was born.

The 1911 Census is particularly interesting as most of the house names are included, whereas on the Victorian census returns very few house names were given. It is also remarkable just how many retired ex-service men were living in Hambrook, particularly in The Avenue.  There is better information still in the 1921 census, particularly regarding employment which then gave not only the occupation but also for whom they worked and where.

It should be remembered that accuracy of the data was down to the person giving the information. In many cases ages may not seem to agree from one census to another, places or birth may change between subsequent census returns etc. Also spelling of places and surnames can vary as the majority of the population were illiterate, so it relied upon the enumerator to write down what he thought the respondent said.  The 1921 census forms were clearly generally written by the householder which illustrates the improving literacy of the population.

The Chidham transcripts have been compiled from images of the original records held in the National Archives. 

Stephen J Tanner
Wagtails, Chidham Lane

The 1939 Register

At the outbreak of World War II, the government urgently needed to know everything it could about the civil population of England and Wales.  This information would be key in the issuing of identity cards and ration books as well as organising conscription and, after the war, creating the NHS.

To gather this information they took a National Register. On September 29th 1939 the personal details, including names, dates of birth, occupations and marital status of 41 million individuals were recorded. It remains the most comprehensive survey ever taken of the population of England and Wales.

This transcript is for the civil parish of Chidham with the addition of those properties now in Nutbourne East, which was then part of Southbourne civil parish. Records for persons believed to still be living at the time of release of the Register are closed to public view. The number of closed records can be used to determine the number of persons residing at a particular address. Where the first person in the record is believed to still be living, the address cannot be seen and in such cases the address is given as ???. Some of the records have been repaired with Selotape, which has since badly discoloured making entries difficult to read. Any indecipherable characters are shown as *?

Some entries have strikethrough on surnames. This is usually limited to single women and probably indicates where the record has been updated, in some cases clearly many years later, due to marriage. In almost all cases, the status has been left as single. The Status field uses S for single, M for married, W for widowed and in one instance D for divorced.

Stephen J Tanner
Wagtails, Chidham Lane