The first family history text book that I bought was Terrick Fitzhugh's Dictionary of Genealogy (3rd edition). His article on the census includes this:
This is consistent with the headings above the Names box on the English 1841 and 1851 censuses, which refer to those who "abode the night of ..." (or "the preceding night"): the past tense implies that the information was recorded after the night in question.The Census of 1851 was taken on 31 March for the night of 30/31 March...
The Census of 1861 was taken on 8 April for the night of 7/8 April.
A similar concept is stated more explicitly in the instructions to enumerators in the Scottish 1871 census:
(I couldn't find what the asterisk referred to, but the rest of the instruction seems clear.)You should be very careful that no person alive* at midnight, dwelling in the house or lodgings on the night of April 2nd, is omitted from the Schedule; and that no inmate who was then absent is inserted, except those travelling or out at work during that night, and who return home on Monday morning, April 3rd, all of whom must be entered in the Schedule. (Section II 3d relating to duties on Monday 3 April) (found at http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~sctfc ... enumInst71)
To me at least it seems logical that a census relating to a particular Sunday/Monday night (as UK censuses are) should be taken on the Monday, recording what was actually the case (except for reasons of work or travel - Scotland 1871), and it should therefore be dated as the Monday rather than the Sunday, and this is how I've always recorded them. Surely on the Sunday, the best you could have would be an expectation of who would be there, and that they wouldn't die before midnight.
However, others apparently think otherwise. The National Archives guide gives Sunday dates (http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/help ... uses-taken), as does that from the Society of Genealogists (http://www.sog.org.uk/learn/help-gettin ... uide-four/).
What do others think? Is there any hope of consensus?