Content associated with: Enumeration abstract, 1801    Page 518

Armed Forces

Edward Higgs

It has often been claimed that the first census in 1801 was taken to show how many people could take up arms during the wars against revolutionary France. But the early returns up to 1831 were not very suitable for such a purpose since they usually failed to include questions about age. All that local officials were usually asked was the numbers of men and women in the parish, and whether they fell into broad economic sectors (Higgs, 1989, 4–7). However, an attempt was made by John Rickman, the clerk of the House of Commons responsible for these early censuses, to give information about the armed forces. A summary table in the 1801 Enumeration Abstract gave the total number in the Army, including the militia, and in the Royal Navy, including marines (Enumeration Abstract, 1801, Summary of Enumeration). But where these figures came from, and whether they related to members of the armed forces outside Great Britain, was not clearly stated. The population tables in 1811 note when the militia were present in an area, and their numbers. Similarly, in the 1821 Abstract of the answers and returns there was a summary table giving the total numbers in the Army and Navy (including the regular army, artillery, and regular militia) in 1801, 1811, and 1831. This was said to have been compiled from "official documents", presumably supplied by the War Office and Admiralty (Abstract of the answers and returns, viii). In 1831 there was another summary table that gave the number of men in the 'Army, Navy, Marines and Seamen in registered vessels, again taken from 'official documents'. These included the 'staff (officers?) of militia regiments', but the militia under training were added to the males of their respective counties (Abstract of the answers and returns Enumeration Abstract. Vol. I. 1831, xii).

The census enumerations of Great Britain from 1841 onwards were undertaken by the General Register Office in London (GRO), and (from 1861) by the GRO Scotland. Householders were given household schedules in which they were to record information relating the named members of their households. These were collected by local enumerators, who copied the results into enumeration books for dispatch to the central census authorities. Large institutions were given special institutional schedules that had to be filled out by the senior officer of the institution. Soldiers in barracks were always enumerated in the same manner as the inmates of other institutions. Small barracks were treated as private households to be enumerated by the ordinary enumerator (Higgs, 1987, 10–15, 36–9). Thus, soldiers present in Britain on Census Night were recorded in the published Census Reports as part of the populations of the places in which they were living. They also appeared as soldiers in the tables showing occupations under the same administrative subdivisions.

Members of the British Army stationed abroad were never fully enumerated in the British census because the system of enumerators could not be extended abroad. Instead the War office provided the census authorities with information as to the numbers of officers, other ranks, wives and children, either by place or by regiment. Nominal information on this considerable body of men and women was never collected as part of the British census (Higgs, 1989, 39). Thus, in 1851 the numbers of men in the Army at home appeared in the published occupational tables under the heading 'Persons engaged in the defence of the country'. But there were separate, supplementary tables showing the numbers in the Army, Navy and Marines both at home and abroad (Population Tables, 1851, Pt. II. Ages and occupations, cccxlv–cccxlviii).

The enumeration of the Royal Navy was more comprehensive than that of the Army. Members of the Royal Navy ashore in England and Wales on Census Night were recorded in the usual household and institutional returns. From 1861 onwards the commanding officers of Royal Naval vessels, both in home waters and abroad, were given special naval schedules in which they were to record the names and relevant details of the officers and crew. In 1841 and 1851 an attempt appears to have been made to gather information regarding the members of the Royal Navy on board ship. In 1841 only a headcount may have been attempted but in 1851 special schedules seem to have been issued to the commanding officers of vessels in British ports (Higgs, 1989, 39–40).

If such nominal returns were made for naval vessels in 1841 and 1851, they do not appear to have survived. In 1861 the returns for such vessels in both home and foreign waters can be found at the end of the surviving manuscript census returns at the National Archives, with those for the merchant marine. They do not appear to be in any particular order. Thereafter only the returns of naval vessels at sea or in foreign waters were placed at the end of the relevant census returns. The schedules for those ships in British ports can usually be found at the end of the household returns for the registration district in which the port lay.

In the published Census Reports the numbers of members of the Royal Navy in Britain, either on shore or in port, were given as part of the population of the communities in which they were found on Census Night. As with the Army, they also appeared as Royal Naval personnel in the tables showing occupations under the same administrative subdivisions. However, there were also separate tables showing the numbers and characteristics of members of the Royal Navy both on shore, in home waters, and abroad (e.g. Census of England and Wales, 1861, Vol III. General Report, 148–9).

From 1921 onwards, the members of the Royal Air Force in Britain were treated in a similar manner to the other services.

REFERENCES

Census of Great Britain, 1821, Abstract of the answers and returns made pursuant to an Act, passed in the first year of the reign of His Majesty King George IV, intituled, "An Act for taking an account of the population of Great Britain, and of the increase or diminution thereof". Preliminary observations. Enumeration abstract. Parish register abstract, 1821, BPP 1822 XV. (502). [View this document: Observations, enumeration and parish register abstracts, 1821]

Census of Great Britain, 1831, Abstract of the answers and returns made pursuant to an Act, passed in the eleventh year of the reign of His Majesty King George IV. intituled, "An Act for taking an account of the population of Great Britain, and of the increase or diminution thereof." Enumeration Abstract. Vol. I. 1831, BPP 1833 XXXVI (149). [View this document: Enumeration abstract, 1831 (Part 1)]

Census of England and Wales, 1861, Vol. III. General Report BPP 1863 LIII. Pt. I.[View this document: General report . England and Wales. 1861]

Census of Great Britain, 1801, Abstract of the answers and returns made pursuant to an Act, passed in the forty-first year of His Majesty King George III. intituled "An act for taking an account of the population of Great Britain, and the increase or diminution thereof". Enumeration. Part I. England and Wales. Part II. Scotland BPP 1801-02 VI (9). [View this document: Enumeration abstract, 1801]

Edward Higgs, Making sense of the census. The manuscript returns for England and Wales, 1801–1901 (London, 1989).

Census of Great Britain, 1851, Population Tables, II. Ages, civil conditions, occupations and birth-place of the people with the numbers and ages of the blind, the deaf-and-dumb, and the inmates of workhouses, prisons, lunatic asylums, and hospitals. Vol. II BPP 1852–53 LXXXVIII Pt.II (1691.II). [View this document: Population tables II, Vol. I. England and Wales. Divisions VII-XI. Scotland. Islands, 1851]