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Page last updated at 14:28 GMT, Tuesday, 10 August 2010 15:28 UK
A snapshot of past lives in Guernsey
Cenus on microfilm
The most recent census accessible in the library is from 1901

The Priaulx Library at the top of St Peter Port is home to many items documenting Guernsey's history.

Amongst them are the island census records which date back to 1801.

Chief librarian Amanda Bennett explained: "It was a time when countries across Europe were beginning to take censuses."

In July 2010 the States of Guernsey decided to switch to a rolling electronic census changing how such records are kept.

Amanda said: "The census as we know it will cease, there won't be one document which gives a snapshot of one day on the island. But with electronic data a lot of information is held on us in a lot of different ways so I don't think there will be any lack of data for researchers in the future."

When the first census was conducted, Amanda explained, "The States knew the population was growing but they didn't know by how much", so its original use was to measure the size of population so the States would know how to budget correctly and provide appropriate services for the island.

From 1801 a census was conducted every 10 years, but, the detailed records for the first four censuses were not kept. However, from 1841 onwards more detailed records do exist, and can still be viewed on microfilm at the Priaulx Library.

By 1841 Guernsey was being recorded as part of the British Isles census, Amanda explained this was to ease the cost and administration required locally.

From 1851 onwards more detail was recorded taking in information about occupations and places of origin, amongst other things, Amanda said: "[These additions] were interesting to see how many people had come to Guernsey, and why."

Amanda Bennett
Amanda explained people visit to look at the census records every day

From 1801 to the most recent census of Guernsey in 2001, Amanda explained, the method of collecting the data had remained largely the same, as it had done across the British Isles.

"Since the early days they used census enumerators who went out with the forms and went to every family, asked them questions, and filled them in," she said, with the only difference with more modern censuses being that people would more often fill in their own forms.

Since 1911 detailed census information has been under a 100 year embargo, so only basic facts like population numbers are available, however as the years pass this information will be released painting a picture of life in Guernsey in the 20th century.

Census information is particularly useful today to people researching their family history and Amanda said they have people visiting the library every day to look up information on the census.

She said anyone who wished to could "pop in" and look through the micro film records of the censuses from 1841 to 1901 and try and gain an insight into what their ancestors might have been doing at the time.




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