Rounding of Ages in 1841 Census

An interesting fact that I discovered whilst searching census records was that in the 1841 census enumerators were instructed to round the ages of the individual. If you have been finding odd ages then this could be the reason why! The instructions that enumerators were given were to:

Write the age of every person under 15 years of age as it is stated to you.  For persons aged 15 years and upwards, write the lowest of the term of 5 years within which the age is.

Thus — for Persons aged
15 years and under 20 write 15
20 years and under 25 write 20
25 years and under 30 write 25
30 years and under 35 write 30
35 years and under 40 write 35
40 years and under 45 write 40
45 years and under 50 write 45
50 years and under 55 write 50
55 years and under 60 write 55
60 years and under 65 write 60
65 years and under 70 write 65
70 years and under 75 write 70
and so on up to the greatest ages.

It is clear from a survey of the of census returns that not every enumerator followed or understood these instructions as many people are listed with ages that contain odd numbers.

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