UK & Ireland Census Data
Regular census taking began, in England, in 1841 and a new census has been taken every 10 years since then. Census data is made available to the public 100 years after the date of the census.
Data for the census years 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 are available on microfilm and can be ordered into your local LDS Family History Centre for viewing. The 1851 census has been indexed but the index is not always readily available.
Most LDS Family History Centres will have a complete indexed set of fiche for all counties in England and Wales for the 1881 census available at all times.
The 1891 census is also available on fiche. If the collection of your local Family History Centre does not contain the particular fiche you need, they will order it in for a small fee and it will then become a permanent part of the collection.
The census is a valuable source of information because you can find whole families sometimes extended families and often visiting relatives.
The census is a great way to trace those elusive female lines.
I found out my great-grandmother's maiden name - Ackrell - because her unmarried sister was staying with her family at the time of the census. I was also able to determine where she was born (Dartmouth, Devon) and when (she was 26 when the census was taken on 4 April 1881). With this information in hand, I ordered the microfilm, which contained the Dartmouth data from the 1861 census because this was the first census taken after she was born. Sure enough, I found a six year old Elizabeth Ackrell living with her parents and siblings and I'd taken my research back another generation.
It is a good idea to look for your known relatives in every census during which they were alive if you can. When you do find family members on a census fiche or film, always get a photocopy of that page and mark it with the fiche or film number as well as the piece, folio and page numbers. Do not skimp on this or fail to record the data because you will regret it if you do.