Interested to find your UK ancestors? Want to find as much information about them as you possibly can? Well, then you will want to read my guide to the UK census online.
What are the best sites to visit?
Here, I will show you both free and paid websites that you can check out.
There are a number of sites that you can explore and I want to show you the best ones for you to visit.
This post discusses various ways that you can access the U.K. census records for your ancestor within whether they lived in the England and Wales.
However, censuses for Scotland and Ireland were conducted separately to these two countries.
So, if you want to find your Scottish ancestor then please check out the Scotland’s People website. This is a paid site so you will have to pay to access any of their records.
To discover you Irish ancestor you can visit the National Archives of Ireland. Similar with the Scottish census you will have to pay.
Sources you need to check out:
- Free Census Records Online – FamilySearch and FreeCen
- Paid Genealogy Search Sites – Ancestry, FindMyPast, and MyHeritage
- National Archives UK
- UK Census Online
* Please share with me below what you discover here! *
I would love to hear from you.
Free Census Records Online
Whenever I am searching for information about my ancestors I always check to see what I can get for free.
It is always a good idea to see what you can find without spending any money first.
That money can be better spent on things that will have to be paid for.
Just what free options are available to you?
You can access the U.K. census records through the Family Search website. On this site you will find images for the 1841 right through to 1911, except for the 1881 census.
You will find on the FamilySearch site that there is a full transcription for 1881.
That means that not only are there images for this particular year but it has been transcribed as well, meaning it can be easily search by entering your ancestor’s name.
To find your relative for all the other years you will unfortunately have to search through the images.
Family Search has millions of records and I have found many records containing my ancestors on this site.
Hit-and-miss but worth checking out!
However, the problem though is that I do not always find what I am looking for.
For that reason I usually have to go to one of the paid genealogy sites, i.e. Ancestry, FindMyPast, or MyHeritage.
And because only the 1881 census is fully transcribed that means that I have to go elsewhere to easily find my ancestors.
That’s the price I guess you have to pay for information being free.
Since FreeCen was established back in 1999 the number of volunteers continues to grow working on transcribing the U.K. census.
There are even volunteers from outside of the U.K. willing to help with the transcription.
This is a great initiative, to have the U.K. census contained in one database, and which can be accessible for free.
It’s not all there I’m afraid!
However, the bad news is that not all census years are covered though.
With the help of volunteers the site covers census years 1841 to 1891. So, if you are looking for the 1901 and 1911 census then you will have to look elsewhere.
Another disadvantage of this site is that these census years are not yet fully transcribed.
But the website does welcome new volunteers. Why not offer your services and help transcribe the other census years.
So, if you would like to give back to the genealogy world then why not help them transcribe these records.
For more information please check out their website!
Paid Genealogy Search Sites
Ancestry and FindMyPast
Sure you will have to part with your cash but you should be able to find what you are looking for on these two sites.
This is because their databases are mostly complete. They have billions of records.
The only reason why I may not find what I am looking for is maybe because there is no particular record of my ancestor in the first place. Take for example one ancestor of mine.
I tried and I tried to search for my 2nd great grandmother Ann Waters in the 1851 census but alas I couldn’t.
I came to the realization that she was just not included for this year after all.
Both Ancestry and FindMyPast offer all of the U.K. census years, where they have indexes and images.
If you are an Ancestry member already then you will be able to link these census images to your family tree that you have built on their website.
* Owain’s Tip *
There is a way that you can access these records for free on both Ancestry and Find My Past.
Why not visit your local library?
I have done this many times and have built my family tree extensively by using my library’s computer and accessing these two websites.
You may also have heard of the MyHeritage website.
I have not used this site myself but I did want to bring it to your attention.
Like Ancestry and FindMyPast they also have all of the census years available for you to search.
You will though need to pay to access these records.
To access a census record containing your ancestor from The National Archives UK you will need to pay.
Despite having to pay for this service you will find all of the census years within their collection.
Credit: National Archives UK
Much more besides census records!
So, if you do not wish to use any of the above mentioned sites then you may wish to check out the National Archives site.
If you are in England then you may wish to visit the National Archives in person and see the original documents or records.
Not only do they have census records but also births, deaths and marriages certificates, military and maritime records, criminal records and more.
The Archives are located at Kew in Surrey.
For more information on opening times and how to get there please check out their Visit Us page.
You can access and search each of the census years 1841 to 1911 on the UK Census Online website.
However, this is yet another paid service where you can choose from a monthly, quarterly, 6 monthly or a yearly membership.
Not only will you find the index to your ancestor’s records but an image as well.
Access to births, marriages and death records is also possible on this site. You can combine your membership to include access to these records as well.
Conduct a free search and get this information:
- Estimated year of birth
- Place of birth (town and county)
But to view the entire record you will then need to pay.
If you do decide to pay then I do suggest that you are certain that you have the correct individual and that the person that you have found is in fact your ancestor.
You maybe quite uncertain about this if your ancestor has a common name, John Smith perhaps.
The occupation field is a great way to identify if you have the correct individual.
My Final Thoughts
As I have pointed out and explored in this post there are several websites that you can visit to find your ancestors by checking out the UK census records.
There are other sites out there, but I feel that the ones that I have presented here are the best for you to conduct your genealogy research.
The choice though is yours
Try free before you pay!
I do suggest though that you try out the free options first.
What’s the point paying when you could have saved your money?
So, head on over to Family Search and see what you can find there.
The site is a bit hit-and-miss but I have been fortunate enough to find some things on there.
Visit your local library!
If you do have a local library then why not visit it and go on the computer there. Signing up to use their computer facilities should be simple enough.
They will most likely have a subscription to Ancestry and probably Find My Past. And they may even have a genealogy society where you can get help and advice as well.
From your library as I mentioned you will be able to search these websites for free.
Come to your senses and use the census!
Census records have been a great help to me in building out my family tree. And they can help you too.
They are great resource for any genealogist wishing to trace their heritage.
I wish you all the best on your family history journey.
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