About FreeCEN Somerset
Somerset Map 1861

Somerset 1861 (Source: Somerset Archives)

About Us

The Somerset Online Census Project is a global project working for present and future Somerset family historians. Anyone anywhere can work for the project and when it is complete, no one will ever have to pay to access a transcript of the Somerset census returns. The Somerset Online Census Project is part of Free Census and is run by Geoff Jarvis. If you would like to volunteer or want further information, contact Geoff.

The project is part of the Free Census Project which is transcribing ALL of the UK 19th century census returns in order to create an online free-to-view searchable database. It is part of an initiative helping to make high quality primary (or near primary) records of relevance to UK genealogy conveniently and freely available online.


Sumorsaete Ealle

In early 878 Danish invaders forced King Alfred to take refuge in the Somerset levels on the Isle of Atheney. According to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle he and the people of Somerset fought off the Danes at Sedgemoor and Alfred then rode to Selwood and met "Sumorsaete Ealle" (all the people of Somerset). This was the first known reference to the people of Somerset. The phrase 'Sumorsaete Ealle' has been adopted by the Somerset County Council as their motto, and is incorporated into their Coat of Arms.

We have so far been unable to find a phrase which so aptly sums up the intent of this project - to record all the people of Somerset. We have therefore adopted it as the title for this web page.
(Some information has been drawn from the Celebrating Somerset website)

Some Interesting Facts

1821 - Almost half the population of England was under 20 years of age, compared to just over a quarter today.
1831 - Only 16% of the UK population lived in urban areas
1901 - The average UK household was 4.6 persons, compared to 2.4 persons in 1991

Populations for each 19th century census:
  Males Females Total
1841 209383 226599 435982
1851 211045 232871 443916
1861 209680 236193 444873
1871 218454 245029 463483
1881 220582 248529 469109
1891 203485 235215 438710

In 1971, just before the boundary changes in 1974, the population of Somerset was 682,664.

1801 The average household in Somerset contained 6 persons
1831 There were 0.39 people per acre. In 1891 this figure was still only 0.42 people per acre. In 1991 it was 0.5, about half of the UK average.
1841 The census return for the parish of Knapp includes 30 people who lived in barns or tents
1841 Cinderella was shown as a house servant in Bath
1851 There were 2 chimney sweeps between 5 and 9 years old in Somerset.
1851 There were 2453 people per policeman (which included watchmen). In 1951 this figure was 658 people per policeman.
1861 There were 37,276 agricultural labourers in Somerset. By 1931 this had dropped to 13,722 and by 1991 just 2% of the population were employed as farmers or agricultural labourers.
1871 There were 1075 seamen recorded in Somerset.
1881 8% of Somerset's female population were employed as indoor domestic servants. Over 29 times as many females were domestic servants as males
Between 1851 and 1901 The number of people employed on the railways increased from 328 to 3,684
Between 1891 and 1931 The number of boot and shoe makers fell from 7749 in 1891 to 509 in 1931.

Source: 200 years of the Census in Somerset, Office of National Statistics, Titchfield, Hants.