A3: Census Data

Look at old census data from your area.

Censuses have been taken at ten year intervals since 1801. At present 1901 and 1911 are available online to view, although you have to pay to download them.

Part of the 1851 census return for Yorkshire Street, Burnley.


A page from the census enumerator's book for Yorkshire Street, Burnley, 1851.

[transcription of the census entries for Yorkshire Street, for pupils to use in activities attached below.]



Look carefully at the census data for part of Yorkshire Street, and try to answer the following questions:

1. How many of these people were born in Burnley?

2. Who lived at No 5 Yorkshire Street? Where did they come from? How long had they lived in Burnley? How can you tell?

3. Which house had two families living in it? How can you tell?

4. What evidence is there that there was a school in Burnley in 1851?

5. Can you suggest at what age children started school?  By what age had they left school?

6. Why do you think Rupert Stevens might not go to school?

7. How many houses had lodgers? Why might this be the case?

8. How many servants were there? Who did they work for?

9. How can you tell that Burnley was a textile town?


Remember, this is only a tiny part of the census for Yorkshire Street, let alone the whole of Burnley, yet we can still draw some valid conclusions from the evidence.


The Census as Evidence:  

  • What can the census tell us about life at the time of the census?
  • What can't the census tell us about life in at the time of the census?
  • What else would you need to know before you can decide how useful the census to a historian?

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