Census Schedule Numbers, and how the census was carried out

The extreme left hand column in a census enumerator’s book shows a “Schedule Number”. Note also, as illustrated here, that each house has a separate schedule number. There is a “1” in the column for “Houses – Inhabited”. The enumerator also had instructions to make a double line // at the start of each household, as some houses could possibly contain more than one “household”; (For example, in the case of apartments). A Schedule Number should not be confused with a house number. Therefore it isn’t possible to find a family, say at “113” High Street in 1861 and then to go look at schedule 113 in the 1871 census. A Schedule is a piece of paper (a form) that the enumerator left at each household sometime during the week before the census was taken. It was the responsibility of the head of the household to see that the form was filled in, listing the details of the people who resided (slept) in the house at midnight on the Sunday night of the census. Each form (Schedule) had a unique identifying number.



Above: A householder’s Schedule.

This was filled in by the householder and collected by the enumerator a few days later. In many cases, the original schedule was filled in by a child rather than by the head of the household. The reason is simple. During the 1800s the children went to school, or Sunday school, and learned to read and write, whereas parents (of the older generation) were often not able to read and write.

It is a common myth that a census enumerator knocked on doors and asked who was present; and then wrote down the details, often mis-hearing, or mis-spelling. No. Sure, there may have been isolated examples of that having been done, but this is very rare! During the week following census night, the enumerator visited all of the houses, and collected the forms (the Schedules), and then he collated them, and then wrote them up into his enumerator’s book, in schedule number order. The enumerator may have found it difficult to interpret the handwriting on the schedule, and he may have mis-transcribed some details. Except for the 1911 census, the original Schedules (forms) have very rarely survived. A pity, because it is those that are the original records, albeit not the official ones.

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