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Welcome to Bedford Borough Council

Censuses and Population

We hold census returns for Bedfordshire for the years 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891,  and 1901.  They are all on microfilm, but the 1911 census and all of the above census returns can now be found online at major family history websites such as Ancestry and Find My Past.  We have a corporate subscription to Ancestry so we would usually recommend that you use the online census returns when you visit us.

The 1841 Census contains limited information: names, approximate age (frequently rounded up or down to the nearest 5 years), occupation, and whether 'born in County'.

Later censuses yield more information useful to family historians such as place of birth, relationship to the head of the household, whether married, single or widowed, place of birth, and whether an employer or employee.

  • 1841 - night of 7 June. Does not show place of birth. Ages of adults given to nearest 5 years. Does not give number of men employed
  • 1851 - night of 30 March. Gives place of birth, exact age, and number of men employed - also given in post-1851 census returns
  • 1861 - night of 30 March
  • 1871 - night of 3 April
  • 1881 - night of 8 April
  • 1891 - night of 5 April
  • 1901 - night of 31 March
  • 1911 - night of 2 April.  The first census that shows the householders handwriting, giving their address, exact age, place of birth, and in the case of married women in the household, the number of years married, the number of children born in total from that marriage and the number that are still alive and the number that are now deceased

Some records remain of earlier censuses, and other population lists can be found in other collections such as the parish archives. These are available to view in our searchroom and some are available online, see our page of Unusual Census Returns for more details.

We also have a list of population figures for each parish in Bedfordshire compiled from the censuses, dating from 1801 up to 2011.