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Durham County Record Office: the official archive service for County Durham and Darlington

Census records

Information about access to census records in Durham County Record Office.

Census records and indexes in the search room

You can search County Durham census records for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901 and 1911 in the Record Office.

There is free access in the search room to all UK census returns from 1841 to 1911 on the Ancestry website. 

We have census returns for 1841-1901 on microfilm, covering the historic County Durham between the Rivers Tyne and Tees.

If you want to view the census on microfilm please make an appointment and book a microfilm reader.

You can print copies of the census from microfilm or from the Ancestry website in our search room.

Our guide to Records of genealogical interest on microfilm has summary information about the census records we keep. See our guide to Census indexes for a list of all the personal name indexes that you can consult in the Microfilm Room when you visit us. 

About census returns

A census of the population of England and Wales has been taken every ten years since 1801, except in 1941. The first four census returns, from 1801 to 1831, only counted the number of people and did not record details of individuals.

1841 census, North Road, Durham City, courtesy of The National Archives [HO 107/320/13, f.5, p.4]
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In 1841 the country was divided into enumeration districts and one enumerator was responsible for the collection of the information in each district.

The information was entered on printed schedules and it included details of every person who spent the night of the census in each house.

The schedules (or returns) were designed to give the address of each house, names of the inhabitants, their ages, sex, occupations, and whether or not they had been born in the county in which they were living at the time of the census.

The recording of ages in the 1841 census return can be misleading. Exact ages in years were given for children up to the age of 14 inclusive, but the age of every person over the age of 15 was given to the next lowest multiple of five years, e.g. all those between 45 and 49 were usually described as 45.

1851 census, New North Road, Durham City, courtesy of The National Archives [HO 107/2390, f.185, p.4]
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In 1851 and all subsequent censuses a similar system was adopted except that the place and county of birth, the exact age of each person and his or her relationship to the head of the household was given.

You will find extracts from the 1851 and 1901 census returns for Crook in using the census on one of our Learning Zone units developed in partnership with Durham University.

All census returns are closed to public access for 100 years because they contain confidential personal information.

Census dates

When was the UK census taken?

YearMonthDay
1841June6
1851March30
1861April 7
1871April2
1881April3
1891April5
1901March31
1911April2

Searching the census from home

There are links to all available censuses on The National Archives and Ancestry websites. The 1881 census can also be searched on the FamilySearch website which is sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.