By collecting information from every household a unique and detailed snapshot is taken of modern life, documenting the lifestyle and characteristics of the population. After 100 years, census records are released to the public. These provide a wealth of information for genealogists, historians and family tree enthusiasts. Without the census the lives and lifestyles of our ancestors would remain undocumented, making historical research much more difficult.

Census data in genealogical sources:

Tracing family trees

The 1911 Census website, run by the National Archives, received a staggering 22 million page views within the first two days of its launch and 24 million searches in the opening month ( The public has an insatiable appetite for family history. The grand total of page views of 1841 - 1901 census content, since 2002, is over 386 million. The census makes historical research democratic. Recent history is not limited to a handful of famous families.

Who do you think you are?

TV programmes like ‘Who do you think you are?’ use census data to make people’s history come to life. There are many organisations across the UK who can help you trace your family history.

If you are interested in tracing your own family history, take a look at our genealogy toolkit.