The "Unfilmed" 1851 census

INTRODUCTION
Recovering Lost Souls

THE RECOVERY PROJECT
History, Methods, Publication and Statistics

DISTRICTS AFFECTED
Manchester, Chorlton, Salford, Ashton-under-Lyne, Oldham

WHERE TO FIND IT
CDROM, Online, Libraries

FREE NAME INDEX
Search for Your Ancestors

FREE STREET INDEX
Find streets and places

CASE STUDIES
Elizabeth Gaskell
Samuel Bamford

DONATIONS
Please help with a small donation

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

CONTACT US

A Brief History of the Census
A census of the population of the United Kingdom has been taken every ten years from 1801 to the present day with the exception of 1941. The early census 1801 to 1831 was a statistical exercise only and no personal names were recorded in the returns. From 1841, names and an increasing amount of personal detail were collected. Consequently, the census returns provide a wealth of information for the family historian.

Access to Census Returns
There is a 100 year closure applied to census returns. Returns dating after 1901 are currently closed to public access but the returns for 1911, with some minor restrictions, are available on the internet. Census returns 1841-1901 are usually available on microfilm for local areas in local studies libraries. A full set of returns 1841-1901 on microfilm for all areas is available at The National Archives, Kew. There are several web sites which offer online access to the census returns, each providing an index to the names which appear.

Manchester's "Unfilmed" 1851 Census
Family historians with ancestors in mid-19th century Manchester face a particular difficulty. Following transfer of the enumeration books to the Home Office in London and analysis of the contents, the area where the books were stored was flooded and the books were badly damaged. Some of the books were in such poor condition that it was not considered worth filming them. Others were filmed but much of the image appears blackened and the writing is not decipherable. Since the original books were considered too fragile to permit public access, the returns relating to over 200,000 people were effectively unavailable.

Recovering the Lost Souls
In 1991 Manchester & Lancashire Family History Society secured the agreement of the (then) Public Record Office to access the damaged returns and transcribe such information as might still be legible. This was the start of a 14 year project which concluded in 2005 with the publication of the final transcripts. Despite the damage, details of some 82% of the 217,717 persons whom the statisticians had counted had been recovered.

Last modified 4 April 2014


A Typical Census Page


A Reconstructed Page


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