The 1851 Census for Wales was taken on the night of 30 March 1851. The following information was requested:
- Name of street, place, road, etc.
- House number or name
- 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, deaf, or idiot
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 30 March 1851 for all individuals who had spent the night in the house. People who were traveling or living abroad were enumerated at the location where they spent the night on 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.
Some of the census records have been damaged by water during storage, but through the use of new technology they have now been indexed. The Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society recovered tens of thousands of names working on a small scale to prove the technology. Ancestry.com used forensic and photographic techniques on a large scale to take names from records, which are unreadable by the naked eye because of mold and water damage. The process yielded 275,000 names that weren’t previously available.
How the census forms are organized:
Census returns were collected according to registration district. These returns were divided into sub-districts and assigned consecutive piece numbers for reference purposes. The piece numbers begin in London with number one and work roughly south to north, followed by the Welsh districts and then the Isle of Man and Channel Islands. You will find the piece number on a paper strip at the bottom of every image, following the PRO class number. There may be hundreds of pieces within a county.
In addition to the piece number, each page of the returns includes a folio number and/or a page number. The folio number was stamped onto every other page before microfilming and is located in the upper right hand corner of the image. Folio numbering usually starts over at the beginning of each piece. The page number is part of the printed form and is found on every page in the upper right hand corner. The page numbers start over at the beginning of every enumeration district. A full reference number for a record in the 1851 census includes the PRO class number (HO 107), the piece number, the folio number, and the page number. Keep in mind that you may have to look at several enumeration districts to find the page you want within a given folio since the page numbers start over with every ED.
Connecting piece numbers and localities:
To identify which parishes or townships are included in a piece, please use The National Archives online catalogue. Search the catalogue by entering the series code and the piece number, e.g. HO 107/217, in the box in the upper left that says "Type reference here."
Alternatively, you can search the catalogue vice-versa (identify which piece number a particular parish or township is part of) by putting a place name in the "Word or phrase" field and "HO 107" in the "Department or Series code" field.
Some of the above information was taken from "Chapter 6: Census Returns," Ancestral Trails: The Complete Guide to British Genealogy and Family History by Mark D. Herber (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc, 1998) and Using Census Returns, Pocket Guides to Family History by David Annal (Richmond, Surrey: Public Record Office, 2002).