Census of England and Wales Citation Question


I have consulted your book and this site many times, but I am still confused regarding census citations.

In your 1911 England census article you state (paraphrasing):

…Name of census, county, civil parish, and enumeration district are all that is necessary for a citation...  The rest of the details, (registration district ..., registration district number ..., sub-registration district ..., street address ...) are details that would appear in the research notes where we extract all the details of the census.

Basic Rule for Creating a Layered Citation for Imaged Records

Details that belong in one layer of the citation should not be mixed into the other.  Each layer of the citation deals with a different entity. When we’re citing an imaged record at a site such as Ancestry, we have three layers.

  • Layer 1: We cite the image of the original document. We cite what we see. We don’t cite details that we can’t see for ourselves, to ensure that they are accurate.
  • Layer 2: We cite the website and its database.
  • Layer 3: We cite the basic details that our provider gives us for its source.

Each layer is separated by a semicolon.

In your  1841 British Census article, a lot of thought goes into using the descriptive locations (such as Borough, Municipal Ward, and Civil Parish) in the first layer of the citation.

This agrees with your statement against stating the Registration district information. I realize that a lot of this has to do with which derivative source is used.

For purposes of my questions, please humor me and assume that I somehow have access to the original records and don’t need to use online images. This will help my understanding of not only citations for census records, but citations for other records as well. So, please disregard Layer 2 for this discussion. Please note that I am an extreme “lumper” when it comes to sources. I like to include as much information in the citation as possible, but want your thoughts on what you really think is unnecessary. My source for the 1871 census, for example, would probably be:

Census of England and Wales, 1871, The National Archives of the UK, Yew, Surrey, England.

These are the various elements I could include in the citation to this source:



[Municipal Ward]

[Civil Parish]

[Registration District]

[Sub-Reg District]

[Enumeration Distrct]

[Street Address]

[Head of Household Name]

The National Archives of the UK, Yew, Surrey, England

[reference series no.]

[piece no.],

[folio no.]

[page no.]

[schedule no.]

For my First Reference Note, I might do something like this:

Census of England and Wales, 1871, Lancashire, Liverpool Registration District, St. Martin Sub-registration District, Enumeration District 7, 18 Court Collingwood Street, Micl Burke household; The National Archives of the UK, reference series RG 10, piece 3756, folio 18, page 29, schedule no. 182.

I know the first layer should be what you see in the record, but I also want there to be a logical order. Folio and page numbers can be viewed in the record. Should these be Layer 1? They seem better off in Layer 2. My intuition says that maybe everything should string together, from largest location to smallest, like this:

Lancashire, Liverpool Registration District, St. Martin Sub-registration District, Enumeration District 7; The National Archives of the UK, reference series RG 10, piece 3756, folio 18, page 29, schedule no. 182, 18 Court Collingwood Street, Micl Burke household.

What about descriptive identifiers such as Borough (Liverpool), Civil Parish (Liverpool) and Municipal Ward (Scotland). Where would I place these? Should these follow county? And then move district, sub-district, and ED to Layer 2?

So my most basic questions to you are: 1) Which of the above possible elements would you use, 2) in which order, and 3) why?

Again, assume no derivative source, just an original. Thank you! -Neil

Submitted byEEon Sat, 06/08/2019 - 10:22

Neil,you are asking very thoughtful questions that can help everyone better understand the census records we use.

Q "Which of the above possible elements would you use?"

A The ones that EE uses in the examples are the ones most UK researchers/archivists/editors say they need. Across time and place, essentials do vary. As researchers, we should (a) analyze each record set we use and determine for ourselves whether the identification of that particular record set needs supplemental or alternative information; (b) we are free to include in our research notes any and all details that would help us in our analysis of the records.

Q In which order? Why?

A For national and states censuses, the standard order is from largest to smallest. That is the standard order because that's the way most governments arrange them. (Caveat: some individual situations are different--as when, say, a local copy of a federal census is found in a local or state archive.) When we cite a folio number, page number, or sheet number, that should be attached to the unit it represents. Sometimes each unit will have its own numbering scheme.

Q "Folio and page numbers can be viewed in the record. Should these be Layer 1? They seem better off in Layer 2."

A When citing imaged materials online, Layer 1 is for citing exactly what we see--i.e., what we can confirm of our own observation. Layer 2 identifies the online provider. Layer 3 reports the identification details that the provider gives us--details we cannot confirm for ourselves while using that online source; therefore we do not report them as if we used the original at the archive.

If, as you hypothesize, you were to use the original at the archives (which is rarely allowed for censuses in most archives; even there you'd be referred to microfilm) then you would follow normal practice for citing manuscripts in archives. (EE 3.1, American style; EE 3.3 International differences). In citing manuscript materials, the "layers" that are separated by semicolons will be the organizational layers used by the archive. For example (U.S. style) document; collection; series; record group; archive ID. Or International style, the reverse order.


Submitted byRobynRon Tue, 06/11/2019 - 01:58

Neil, your question it is indeed an interesting query for discussion.

I usually source most of my UK census records from Ancestry, and sometimes from findmypast who I feel have better indexes.

But in regards to Ancestry, I always look at the information at the beginning of the census film to work out the registration district, sub-district, enumeration district and so on.....AND include that info in my citation. I have always kinda thought if someone was at the TNA Kew, that possibly the RG & ED is needed to chase down the correct census record. Often I click through all pages, as I have found Ancestry dot com recording census pages in the wrong district.

My personal citations generally appear like this:

1851 census of England, Berkshire, registration district Faringdon, sub-district Buckland, enumeration district (ED) 6b, Stanford in the Vale Parish, Stanford Village, folio 449, page 17, household 66, Harriett Mattingly (age 4); digital images, \i Ancestry\i0  (http://search.ancestry.com.au/search/db.aspx?dbid=8860 : accessed 19 June 2016); citing PRO HO 107/1687.