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Welcome, fellow genealogists! My blog will teach you about U.S. land records and United Kingdom research. My family has roots in Niagara County, New York; Norfolk, England; and northeast Germany.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Wisdom Wednesday: 1851 Religious Census

1851 was a significant year for the British Census. Ten years earlier, the 1841 Census listed people  individually, not by heads of households. Ages of adults were given in five year blocks. In 1851, every person was to be listed with their actual age. Two separate schedules were created at the same time and by the same enumerators, an educational survey and a religious census.

The religious census which covered all sects provided valuable information about the buildings, endowments, average attendance for the previous year and specific attendance at services and Sunday schools on 30 March 1851. Synagogues gave figures for 29 March.  The results were compiled by an assistant commissioner of the census, Horace Mann, in 1854. (Do not confuse him with the Massachusetts-born educational reformer with the same name.) His report was published as:
          Mann, Horace. Census of Great Britain, 1851: Religious Worship in England and Wales.     London:  Great Britain Census Office 1854.
Besides tables and graphs presenting the results, there is a section describing the history of religion in the UK, and the history and present status of the various denominations. Who knew that Mormons were active in the UK this early? There are a lot of Roman Catholic Churches. The census found 35 denominations, according to Mann.

          Note: To Google, use - "Horace Mann UK Religious census"

You can buy the book at www.amazon.co.uk.
Better, you can read it  free at the following sites: www.google.com/booksor         www.archive.org/stream/censusgreatbrit00manngoog#page/n5/mode/2up
A British historian, Richard Brown, has a blog, “Looking at History,” where he has written about this census and the history of religion in the UK. Check www.richardjohnbr.blogspot.com

Many counties transcribed and published results, including Hampshire, Norfolk and Sussex. I have the Norfolk volume from my local university library on my desk now.
          Ede, Janet and Norma Virgoe, eds. Religious Worship in Norfolk. Norwich: Norfolk Record Society, Vol.LXII, 1998.

The 1851 Census was the only time a country-wide religious survey was attempted in the UK. Ten years later there was some discussion of a repeat, but competing forces could not reconcile their ideas about proposed questions and content.

There were two later newspaper surveys done in London. “The results of the census conducted by the British Weekly in 1886 were published as The Religious Census of London (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1888), available online at www.openlibrary.org/b/OL14037667M
The census conducted in 1902-3 by the Daily News was particularly thorough and informative and was published as Richard Mudie-Smith, The Religious Life of London (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1904), with extensive commentaries and analysis. It is available online at www.archive.org/details/religiouslifeofl00mudi.” Source:


The least reliable information from this census is probably the attendance estimates for the year. It certainly gives an idea of what alternative houses of worship existed in your ancestors’ area. The type of building they worshipped in is described.

Next time: How do you know your ancestors might not attend the Church of England?

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