Historical Timeline

The census began as a basic headcount without names, partly to determine how many men were able to fight wars

1086 First census in England and Wales carried out by William the Conqueror and published in the Domesday Book
1500s Elizabeth I carried out an early census by asking bishops to count the number of families in their dioceses
1600s James I (James VI of Scotland) asked bishops to provide numbers of families in the diocese to gauge the population.
1801 First regular population census for Great Britain held
1837 General Register Office (GRO) for England and Wales established
1841 First population census conducted by the General Register Office
1855 General Register Office (Scotland) established
1864 General Register Office (Ireland) established
1939 National register created for entire population and identity cards issued
1940 The Government Social Survey, which began as the Wartime Social Survey, created
1941 The only decade in which a census was not held since 1801
Central Statistical Office (CSO) established
1952 National Health Service Central Register formed from National Registration records
1968 Claus Moser, now Lord Moser, established the Government Statistical Service
1969 Business Statistics Office created
1970 General Register Office and Government Social Survey merged to create the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys (OPCS)
1989 Business Statistics Office merged with the Central Statistical Office
1996 Office for National Statistics formed by merging CSO, OPCS and the statistics division of the Department of Employment
1997 Family Record Centre established at Myddelton Street, Islington
2000 Statistics Commission and 'National Statistics' established
2001 Census introduces a voluntary question on religion to measure religious belonging across the UK. 
2005 Announcement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of his intention to legislate for independence in statistics
2007 Bill introduced in Lords and Royal Assent given
2008 UK Statistics Authority established (Statistics Commission abolished)
2011 The census introduces two new ethnic groups for Arabs and for Traveller Communities
© Crown Copyright. Source data has been derived from ONS Census 2001, unless otherwise stated.