Enumeration of Special Groups

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PART 5 Enumeration of Special Groups

5.1 Armed Forces, Merchant Navy and persons aboard vessels in ports or territorial waters.

5.1.1 1801 - 1931

The enumerated population at each census from 1801 to 1831 was exclusive of those serving at home or abroad in the Royal Navy, the Army and the Merchant Service, although approximations to their numbers were given in the Enumeration Abstract on each occasion; in 1821 the number serving in local Militia embodied for training were shown in the county tables.

In 1841 the Army at home, members of the Royal Navy and the Merchant Service on shore and, in some cases, persons on board vessels in harbours were included in the enumerated population.

At each census from 1851 to 1931 the enumerated population included the Army at home, members of the Royal Navy and the Merchant Service on shore and, from 1851 to 1921, all persons on board vessels in port on census night or arriving the following day; the Air Force at home was included in 1921 and 1931.

Arrangements made with the Service Departments included the enumeration of members of the armed forces serving overseas and, except in 1911, infor┐mation as to their numbers was published in supplementary tables in the census reports. Similar arrangements were made on some occasions with the Registrar General of Shipping and Seamen to enumerate the Merchant Service at sea.

From 1851 to 1921 the enumeration of those aboard ships was restricted to vessels in port on census night and vessels which arrived during the following day. In 1931 a new interpretation placed upon the terms of the Order in Council was that the census was intended to include only (a) ships in port or at moorings in Great Britain on census midnight and (b) ships which at census midnight were engaged upon a coastwise or fishing voyage (whether within territorial waters or not); ie ships which were on voyage between two ports in Great Britain or on a fishing voyage from a port in Great Britain, either returning to the same port or proceeding to another port in Great Britain. This change of interpretation, which simplified procedure considerably, removed uncertainty about the enumeration of those in ships arriving in port after census midnight, whose proper inclusion depended upon whether they were or were not within territorial waters at census midnight.

5.1.2 1951 - 66


The arrangements made for the 1951 Census were embodied in a Fleet Order, Army Council or Air Council Instruction whereby all persons in defence establishments (whether serving personnel, civilian employees or dependents) were enumerated, the responsibility falling to the officer commanding each unit. The enumeration of Army and Air Force establishments and Naval shore stations was carried out by the normal machinery, with persons resident in married quarters outside the boundaries of these establishments normally being treated as comprising private households.

The questions on the form used for the members of the Forces were restricted but civilians were asked the full range.

The Admiralty undertook the enumeration of all naval ships within home station limits; and special arrangements were made for the enumeration of United States forces and dependants by their own officers. In both cases, the schedules on completion were forwarded direct to the General Register Office.

Officers of HM Customs and Excise acted similarly for civilian shipping: the procedure was similar to 1931 but the coastwise and fishing vessels enumerated on this occasion included those on voyages involving ports in Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man owing to the simultaneous enumeration of all these areas.

All service personnel, civilian staffs and families at stations or in ships abroad were enumerated by the local officers commanding and special arrangements were made to enumerate the British Element of the Control Commission for Germany and some other civilian groups overseas; the data appears at Appendix C of the General Tables .


The methods employed for enumerating the above mentioned groups at the 1961 Census differed in only a few respects from 1951, namely

where security requirements permitted, families occupying married quarters within unit boundaries were also treated as private households within ordinary enumeration districts, thus relieving officers commanding of any liability for ensuring enumeration in these cases;

as explained in 2.7 there was no sampling for HM forces but for civilian shipping only one person in ten were asked the full range of questions;

enumeration of persons overseas was dropped.

There was a change however in procedure for ships in that those on a fishing voyage were only enumerated if they had not touched at a foreign port or a port in the Irish Republic.


The Census of 1966 was on a 10% sample basis for the whole of Great Britain except for six Special Study areas in Scotland which were enumerated 100%.

Shore based service establishments (excluding any married quarters, etc which were the responsibility of the enumerator) expected to have less than 15 persons present on Census night were subject to normal sample selection and, if selected, were enumerated in full. But all larger establishments and all HM ships within Home Station limits were included in the sample. Officers Commanding were required to list all personnel and obtain a completed personal return from each person appearing on a specified sample line of the listing form.

Similarly all civilian shipping, enumerated by officers of HM customs and Excise, were treated as large establishments and included in the sample. Masters were required to list all passengers and crew and obtain a completed personal return from each person appearing on a specified sample line.

5.2 Other special classes, 1911 - 66

No details are available prior to 1911 of special arrangements (if any) for groups of people difficult to enumerate.

From 1911 specific arrangements were made at each census with Trinity House for the enumeration of persons in lightships and lighthouses not accessible to HM Customs and Excise Officers or enumerators; and with the Home Office for the enumeration of homeless persons by the police.

From 1931 arrangements were also made with Forestry Commission Rangers for the enumeration of encampments of gypsies and others in the New Forest and Forest of Dean; and, in 1951, for the enumeration of passengers on the Holyhead Boat Train.

In 1966 these small categories were omitted as it was only a sample census.

5.3 Population of Institutions 5.3.1 1851 - 1931

From 1851 onwards information published in the census Reports has generally given details of the number and ages of the inmates of prisons, workhouses, hospitals of different kinds and other institutions identified in the returns. In the case of prisons, workhouses and mental hospitals tables showing the occupations, or former occupations, of those enumerated were given in some of the Reports . The scale of treatment accorded to those groups has varied on different occasions: reference should therefore be made to the General Reports for England and Wales or the Reports for Scotland in order to ascertain what details were published on any particular occasion.

5.3.2 1951 - 66

Although comparison with 1931 and earlier censuses is difficult, because of changes in definition of different sorts of institution, it does reveal the effects of post-war social legislation. For example, the proportion in hospital has greatly increased but it is not possible to conclude that more people are ill; it is probable that a larger proportion of those that are ill have access to hospital.

In the 1951-66 period itself there are difficulties in comparison, of the numbers of people in non-private establishments in 1951, 1961 and 1966, due to changes in the definition of usual residence, problems inherent in sampling and an increase in inadequate answers as the questions became more complex.

For 1951 and 1961 data appear in County and National Reports and for differences in definition, etc reference should be made to the General Reports . For 1966 the volume, Age3 Sex3 Marital Condition and General Tables is the main source of information for England and Wales and the Housing Tables for Scotland.

Office of Population Censuses and Surveys/General Register Office, Guide to Census Reports: Great Britain 1801-1966 (London: HMSO, 1977) Crown Copyright. The Office of National Statistics has granted the Great Britain Historical GIS Project permission to computerise this publication and include it in this web site. All other rights reserved.

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