Devon Census Index


Devon Census

Census figures are population statistics collected by the government and are not without flaws, thus they can only ever be used as an estimate of the populations at any given time.  Despite there flaws, they are able to provide historians and genealogists alike with valuable information about the people that lived in any given parish.

Below are links to the total number of people living in each Devon Parish as compared between various censuses for some of the  years between 1801 and 1981.

The Census Data on the following pages is reproduced from 
Devon Facts and Figures
with the kind permission 
of Corporate Information Services, part of Devon County Council. 

Devon Census Populations
Listed by Parish Name


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1841 - 1901 Census Availability

Some of the Censuses for Devon are now available either on CD Rom or online.  They can also be viewed at many public libraries in Devon - you can find details on the Devon Library and Information pages for Census Returns of libraries holding the census between 1841 and 1901.

Below follows a listing of the availability of the 1841 to 1901 Census Returns and where you can either view them online, or buy from various genealogical suppliers.  Please note: that I have no connections to any of the companies listed, but simply am listing these links for your information.

Census Date of Original Census Availability

Supplier or Online Link

1841 7th June 1841 CD Rom The 1841 Census of Devon will soon be available on CD Rom in PDF format and can be pre-ordered from Stepping Stones 
1851 31st March 1851 CD Rom The Devon 1851 Census has been transcribed by the Mormon Church and is available on CD Rom from the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Online Catalogue site.  The CD is called 1851 British Census and contains the census returns for the counties of Devon, Norfolk and Warwick.
1861 7th April 1861 3 CD Rom Set The 1861 Census of Devon has been scanned and now available on a 3 CD Rom Set from Archive CD Books
1871 2nd April 1871   Not available online or on CD Rom and at present is also un-indexed.  Some public libraries in Devon hold the census returns for their area.
1881 3rd April 1881 Online

The 1881 Census for the whole of England and Wales, Scotland, Channel Islands and the Isle of Mann, has been transcribed by the Mormon Church and is now available online with a searchable index at: Census Records
25 CD Rom Set The 1881 Census for England and Wales can also be purchased on CD Rom from the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Online Catalogue site and contains a National Index.  See 1881 British Census
1891 5th April 1891 Online Transcriptions provided by the FreeCen Project now with a FreeCen Database Search Facility   You can also find more details about this project by visiting the GENUKI page at: Devon 1891 Census Project
1901 31st March 1901 Online The 1901 Census for the whole of England and Wales has been scanned and indexed by the Public Record Office and is available online at: 1901 Census of England and Wales

The indexes are free to search, but bear in mind that you will need to search for variations in the spellings of surnames.  You will need to pay to actually view the scans of the census or the transcriptions of pages.  Some Tips for Searching 1901 Census are provided by Bryan Wetton.

View some Transcriptions of Devon 1901 Census

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Use of Census Material

The first censuses in England and Wales were taken in 1801 and have been taken every 10 years since then, except in 1941, during World War II.  Unfortunately, few of the very early censuses survive and even where they do, they hold very little information of use to us researching our family history.  However, those from 1841 to 1901 are able to provide us with a wealth of information.  

Key information they give us:

  • Names and Surnames
  • Marital Status
    Married (M) or Unmarried (U), Widow or  Widower (W)
  • Relationship to head of household
  • Age of individual
  • Place of Birth for individual
  • Occupation

Possible Errors

Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881), British Conservative Statesman and Prime Minister (1868 and 1874-1878) made famous the saying: "There are lies, damned lies and statistics."  With the censuses being population statistics, this saying rings particularly true for census material and the statistical data is frequently full of flaws.

Names and Surnames

Although names and surnames given, you would think are more likely to be accurate, people didn't always use their "proper" name and may have preferred to have been known by an alias name.  Middle names were commonly used instead of a first name, particularly when their was another member of the family with the same name, so bear this in mind when searching.

Marital Status

People may have been recorded incorrectly as unmarried, particularly in the case of visitors and lodgers who are not recorded with their spouse.  The incidence of a different surname particularly for daughters with their parents may give the game away.

Relationship to Head of Household

Generally children should have been listed correctly with their families, even with step-children.  But step-children may be listed incorrectly as a son or daughter.   A difference in surname might indicate this - but sometimes illegitimate children later took their "step-fathers" surname, so this is not always apparent..  

Visitors or lodgers can be the most problematic - perhaps correct that they were indeed visiting or lodging, but they might have been other family members not shown in the relationships given.


It was not uncommon for people to lie about their age for whatever reason, thus comparisons between more than one census and we find that some people did not "age" the expected number of years.  So don't be fooled by ages being out a couple of years.

Place of Birth

Birthplace information is often inaccurate.  This may have been due to the person who gave the information to the enumerator, e.g. families with servants working for them may have provided the information.  In the case of smaller villages, the nearest larger town or village might have been given as a birthplace - this is often the case when people were not living in the area in which they were born.  The further they were from their birthplace, the more likely the information is inaccurate, so one should bear this in mind.

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