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Cheshire in the 1881 Census

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

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Cheshire in 1881

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

There were 621,922 residents living in Cheshire 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.

The United Kingdom was highly urbanised at this time, with two-thirds of the country living in cities. This meant that Cheshire farms were abandoned for neighbouring counties such as Lancashire. These lands were absorbed into bigger estates, leading to 98% of Cheshire land belonging to just 26% of the population.

There were still many dairy farms, on which the celebrated Cheshire cheese was made; also extensive market gardens, the produce of which was sent to Liverpool, Manchester, and neighbouring towns.

The salt industry was also still thriving; the principal works were in Nantwich, Northwich, and Winsford. Coal and ironstone were worked in the districts of Macclesfield and Stockport.

Having a smile like a Cheshire Cat was a well-known expression in Victorian England, following the successful release of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Cheshire-born author Lewis Carroll. He can be found in the census lecturing at Oxford University.

Find Your Cheshire Past

Findmypast has comprehensive records from Cheshire in 1881 so you can explore your family history 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 out the thousands of residents of Cheshire is simple.

For example, if you have a long-lost family member with the surname Roberts who you know lived in the county, just enter Roberts in the “Last name” field and Cheshire in the “County” 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.

Famous Names From Cheshire

In amongst your relations, you might just find some notorious colourful local characters. from the county.

William Hope is listed as an apprentice to a fitter in the census, but he would later become known as a paranormal investigator and pioneer of “spirit photography.”

He formed the Crewe Circle Spiritualist Group and duped many with his double exposures of photographs, claiming they showed dead relatives. He was exposed several times as a fraud throughout his life.

Former Labour Co-operative politician Samuel Perry is also in the census as a 3 year old scholar. He would become father to champion tennis player Fred Perry.

John Douglas can be found in his family home in Chester. Perhaps a family member of yours was one of the housekeepers or servants listed in the home of the man who designed more than 500 buildings in Cheshire and the surrounding areas?

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.

There are more than 600,000 Cheshire citizens in the 1881 Census. So, get searching through our vast database and find the relations who made things happen in 19th Century Cheshire!

Search Cheshire by surname