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Wales in the 1881 Census

Search for your ancestors in Wales in the 1881 Census and discover a detailed snapshot of their life at the time.

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Wales in 1881

Taken on 3rd April 1881, the census collected the following information from Wales: full name, exact age, relationship to head of household, gender, occupation, parish and county of birth, medical disabilities.

There were 1,573, 072 people living in Wales on the day of the census; with nearly 30 million living in the UK. Queen Victoria was the reigning monarch, while William Gladstone was the Prime Minister.

1881 was a dramatic year in the history of the nation; in January, a terrible blizzard hit the country. More than five people are thought to have frozen to death in the extremely low temperatures.

On February 19th of that year, Wales started a national passion; Wales played their first ever international rugby match against rivals England. It didn’t start well though, they lost 82-0 by modern scoring methods! Nevertheless, in March the Welsh Rugby Union was set up.

Coal mining dominated much of the landscape in Wales. The Rhondda valley produced 2.13 million tons of coal in 1874, which rose to an amazing 5.8 million tons by 1884. In the 1890s the docks of South Wales accounted for 38 percent of British coal exports and a quarter of global trade.

Perhaps one of your ancestors were one of 52,332 people listed as a “coal miner” under occupation in Wales.

Find Your Welsh Past

Find My Past’s database has in-depth records from Wales in 1881 so you can uncover your family secrets with ease.

To search the census returns, just input the information you have about your relatives into our search form and hit search.

With options to search by name, location, birth place, birth year, location and more, filtering through the many residents of Cymru is easy.

For example, if you have a long-lost family member with the surname Jones who you know lived in Wales, just enter Jones in the “Last name” field and Wales in the “Country” field and you’ll get these search results .

Using the transcripts of the census provided, members can then inspect the original images of the census enumeration books, which will help validate findings and expand family trees.

Notable Welsh Names

Among your relatives in the country, you may spot some hugely influential figures in the history of Wales.

Augustus John can be found as the 3-year-old son of a solicitor in Haverfordwest; maybe one of your relatives is one of three domestic servants listed in the census to the boy who would become a famous painter, etcher and draughtsman? He would be awarded the Order of Merit from King George VI in 1942.

Future prime minister David Lloyd George is listed as a “Solicitors Articled Clerk” in Caernarvonshire in 1881. He was voted the third greatest British prime minister of the 20th century in a poll of 139 academics and he was named among the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide vote.

Daniel Owen made an important contribution to Welsh culture by becoming the first significant novelist to write in Welsh. He is listed as a “Tailor & Draper Employiing 6 Men” in the records, but it was around this time he was working on his first novel Y Dreflan.

Search Tips

The original documents will have been given to your ancestors some time in advance before collection on April 3rd.

As illiteracy was still common, third party “enumerators” will have written on many people’s behalf, which could lead to some errors in the transcripts. This makes it of vital importance to check the original images.

Beware other inaccuracies such as wrong birth dates. Our search function allows a margin of error of two years, you can adjust this further if you wish.

With more than 1.5 million Welsh citizens in the 1881 Census, we wish you luck in finding those that made the difference at this fascinating time for the country.

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