Census Detectives

Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 2

Time period: Victorians 1850-1901

Suggested inquiry questions: What does the census reveal about families in the past?

Potential activities: Follow the activities in the video. Conduct your own mini census. Create a paper display of Victoria's household.

What does the census reveal about families in the past?

Welcome to episode 8 of Time Travel TV! Today we will be exploring a fascinating document that can reveal lots about families in the past! But whose famous household is this and what can we find out about the people who lived there?


Tasks

Part One

Look at the mystery document very carefully and think about what you can see. You might like to discuss your ideas with your helper, or print out the document to circle details as you spot them.

Here are a few questions to think about:

  • What does this document look like? How has it been produced and how is it set out on the page?
  • Can you read any of the words?

Are there any familiar place names you can spot, or even the names of some famous people?

Part Two

So we’ve found lots of interesting information! Historians (people who study history) investigate documents a bit like we have– they collect the evidence from the document and then start making suggestions about what this evidence can tell us. We too can work like historians!

Pause this video again and have a go at using this evidence we’ve collected to suggest what this document is and what information it contains.

Part Three

This type of document is called a census. This is a count of everyone in the United Kingdom on a particular day. The first census took place in 1801 and there has been one held every ten years since then (apart from during the Second World War). The different columns record different types of information. In the last column of the census for 1851 and 1861 it was recorded if somebody was ‘blind, or deaf and dumb’. In 1871 and 1881 other terms were added to include words ‘imbecile’ or idiot and lunatic. It is important remember that these words would never be used today to describe people and shows how times have changed.

This census was taken in 1851 and this page records the royal family living in Buckingham Palace.

What can we find out about this family?

Who was the Head of the household?

Part Four

Mini Challenge

Why is Queen Victoria’s husband Albert shown as the head of the family on the census?

What does this tell us about the way in which women were viewed by Victorian society?

Part Five

Additional documents to investigate

Census Return for Westminster, 1851

1911 Census defaced by Louisa Burnham

Further Activities

  • You could conduct your own mini census returns by texting/ calling your friends and asking about the different people living in their homes, and what their jobs or roles are. You could even make your very own census return sheets to complete!
  • You could draw, colour and colour cut-out figures of all the people in Victoria’s household, or even do one for your own household to display in a frame!


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Lesson at a glance

Suitable for: Key stage 2

Time period: Victorians 1850-1901

Suggested inquiry questions: What does the census reveal about families in the past?

Potential activities: Follow the activities in the video. Conduct your own mini census. Create a paper display of Victoria's household.

Related resources

Victorian family history

How can we find out about the life of a Victorian child using family sources?

Say ‘cheese’: a portrait of Queen Victoria’s family

What can Queen Victoria's family photographs tell us?

Victorian homes

Was there much difference between rich and poor homes?