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The 1881 census was taken on April 3rd and the total population of England, Wales and Scotland at the time was recorded as 29,707,207. The 1881 Census is free to view on Findmypast.
The First Boer War ended only weeks before the 1881 census was taken, and in January of 1881 Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell formed the Oriental Telephone Company.
Within the 1881 England, Wales and Scotland census, you will find transcribed images of the original 1881 census pages plus clear images of the original census enumeration books. The original documents would have been given to your ancestor several days before 3rd April, and the head of household would have been asked to fill in the details for anyone who would have been residing at that address on the census date. If the head of the household was unable to read or write, the enumerator - a literate person who would be collecting the census forms - would help fill in the details.