Census records are a useful tool for researching family history. However, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is prohibited by the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007 from disclosing personal information about individuals and exemptions within the Freedom of Information Act apply to the information.

The Office for National Statistics is also unable to supply information in cases where individuals ask for census information about themselves because census information is exempt from the subject access provisions of the Data Protection Act.

Personal census information is held securely for 100 years before being made available to the public.

Census Customer Services can provide advice and expertise for finding statistical data from previous censuses from 1801.

Personal information from the censuses conducted between 1841 and 1901 is, however, available from The National Archives (TNA). TNA has custody of the 1911 Census records and intends to make these fully available online in 2012 - though an early release of information deemed to be non-sensitive began in 2008.

TNA offers advice on family history research and how to get started. Other organisations offer assistance in tracing friends and relatives. Some may charge for their services.


The management of census information is covered by several pieces of legislation: the Public Records Act 1958, the Census Act 1920, the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007, the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act.