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The 1861 Census for England was taken on the night of 7 April 1861. The following information was requested: name of road, place etc.; house number or name; whether or not the house was inhabited or being built; name of each person that had spent the night in that household; relationship of person enumerated to the head of the family; person's marital status; age at last birthday (sex is indicated by which column the age is recorded in); person's rank, profession, or occupation; person's place of birth (if outside of England or Wales, only the country may be given); whether blind or deaf and dumb.

Enumeration forms were distributed to all households a couple of days before census night and the complete forms were collected the next day. All responses were to reflect the individual's status as of 7 April 1861 for all individuals who had spent the night in the house. People who were travelling or living abroad were enumerated at the location where they spent the census night. All of the details from the individual forms were later sorted and copied into enumerators' books, which are the records we can view images of today. The original householders’ schedules from 1841 to 1901 were destroyed.

The clerks who compiled and reviewed the census data made a variety of marks on the returns. Unfortunately, many of these tally marks were written over personal information and some fields, such as ages, can be difficult to read as a result. More useful marks include a single slash between households within a building and a double slash separating households in separate buildings.

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