Historic collection of 180 million UK census records now online

Article dated: 14 August 2014

The UK Data Archive is proud to announce one of the most important historical datasets in the world is now part of its collection.

The Integrated Census Microdata (ICeM) database contains over 180 million individual census records, digitised from the original census enumerators' books, detailing characteristics for every person and household in Great Britain at each census from 1851 to 1911.

The database was developed by the ICeM project at the University of Essex. It has consistent geography over time and standardised coding schemes for many census variables.

The individual anonymised census records can be explored, analysed and downloaded in two ways:

  • the ICeM-Nesstar system allows anyone to explore and analyse the ICeM data online by tabulating variables, carrying out correlation and regression analyses, and exporting resulting statistical tables
  • a purpose-built ICeM download system allows users registered with the UK Data Service to filter census records based on 20 key variables, then download the resulting data table of individual records (with more than 100 variables per record), in four simple steps

In order to protect the commercial value of the original data, access to the names of individuals is restricted to research projects agreed with the data owners. The practicalities to put this into effect are being developed.

"This is an absolutely fantastic resource which provides an unparalleled opportunity for historical social and economic research," says Matthew Woollard, Director of the UK Data Archive and UK Data Service. "The data preparation has been a labour of love of the ICeM project team, and the tools provided by the Archive make the reuse of these data really straightforward."