The Times has produced a remarkable visual guide to the history of the census, demonstrating how the information gathering process has changed over the years.

The census has been conducted every ten years since 1801 — apart from in 1941, due to the Second World War – in an attempt to create a record that records the past, and helps the government plan for the future.

However, the number of questions and data collection methods have changed radically. In 1801 there were just six questions — addressed to parish officials rather than individuals — as census enumerators attempted to record the number of men and women in the country and their occupations.

By 1911 individuals were completing census forms themselves without the need for the enumerator’s transcription, providing us with a comprehensive, handwritten record of our past.

1911 marks the first time a question on ethnicity was included and by 2011 there were 51 questions, ranging from medical status to a detailed request for an individual’s care responsibilities.

The 2021 census will take a digital-first approach, for the first time. It also marks the first time the census will officially record gender identity and sexuality.

View ‘a visual history of the census’.