The UK Protestation Returns of 1641/1642 are the closest thing that we have to a census. If you are lucky enough to have traced your ancestry back to this time and you know the exact parish that they lived in, then it could be worth taking a look at these records to see if their names appear in them.
In 1641 by order of the House Of Commons, every adult male was asked to declare an oath of allegiance to the Protestant religion. These men’s names were recorded in each parish and sent to parliament. Its worth noting that about a third of the records survive, but it’s still worth a look!
To search the collection you’ll need to go to the Portcullis Search Engine. There’s not much of an explanation of what to do so go to the “Advanced Search” tab and search for “protestation returns”. This will present you with a massive list, filter it to show you all of the results, then use your browsers “Find All In Page” function to search for the parish your parish is a part of.
It’s worth also noting that due to no central management of the records (like census records) that the records from one parish may be wildly different to that of another. In The Protestation Returns on 1641-1642: Part I, General Organisation by Anne Whitman she mentions:
“Naturally enough, not everyone liable to take the Protestation turned up at the right place, on the right day, and at the right time. Local officers were anxious to distinguish those who had received a warning from those who, being away from the parish, could not comply with it, or did not know it had been issued. The officers also offered excuses for the non-attendance of the sick or bedridden, or those too old to come, like the two men of Drewsteignton in Devon who at 94 and 86 were too decrepit to appear.Many of these parishioners, they averred, would certainly have taken the Protestation had they been able to do so.”
The government site also mentions the following, just in case they do not hold the county you are looking for:
“If the Parliamentary Archives does not hold any protestation returns for your county, you could try your local county record office in case any were kept locally. Also it may be worth you contacting your local history society, as some have transcribed and published their own Protestation Returns. The following very useful publication describes all surviving Protestation Returns and their location: ‘The Protestation Returns, 1641-1642, and Other Contemporary Listings’, compiled by Jeremy Gibson and Alan Dell (Federation of Family History Societies, 1995).”
More useful General Family Tree Tips can be found here!