Summary. Census data are available in aggregate form for local areas and, through the samples of anonymized records (SARs), as samples of microdata for households and individuals. In 1991 there were two SAR files: a household file and an individual file. These have a high degree of detail on the census variables but little geographical detail, a situation that will be exacerbated for the 2001 SAR owing to the loss of district level geography on the individual SAR. The paper puts forward the case for an additional sample of microdata, also drawn from the census, that has much greater geographical detail. Small area microdata (SAM) are individual level records with local area identifiers and, to maintain confidentiality, reduced detail on the census variables. Population data from seven local authorities, including rural and urban areas, are used to define prototype samples of SAM. The rationale for SAM is given, with examples that demonstrate the role of local area information in the analysis of census data. Since there is a trade-off between the extent of local detail and the extent of detail on variables that can be made available, the confidentiality risk of SAM is assessed empirically. An indicative specification of the SAM is given, having taken into account the results of the confidentiality analysis.