Published reports on censuses of population and the surviving enumeration books on which they were based are key sources for accounting historians. The increasing availability of electronic versions of census enumeration books (CEBs) for Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. offers opportunities for better understanding the history of occupations concerned with the performance of accounting functions. However, census reports and original census documents must be interpreted critically. The paper reports on a study of accountants appearing in the transcribed version of the British CEBs for 1881. It is shown how the published census underreported the number of accountants in Britain and suggests that there are potential inconsistencies in the manner in which accountants were counted. While accounting historians may rely on the high level of accuracy in transcribed versions of the CEBs, transcription errors have been discovered in relation to female accountants, those pursuing occupations spelt in ways closely resembling “accountant,” and individuals possessing complex occupational titles. Caution in respect of entries relating to accountant clerks is also suggested.

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