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Data Protection and the 1921 Census

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Data Protection and the 1921 Census

Postby ragged staff » Sun Feb 19, 2012 4:51 pm

This won't be news to many of you I'm sure but I was sufficiently amazed by what I've just done to want to share my thoughts. So the 1921 census must stay under wraps until 2021 because of the risk caused by letting information become available about people who are still alive.

My wife and I were talking about an old work friend of her's when I asked how old she is. "I'm not sure because she would never tell anyone but I guess she must be about 40 now." That evening I was 'tinkering' on Ancestry ... no doubt we've all done this when we have a few spare minutes and nothing we are researching in particular. I looked up this lady's name and within minutes I found out her age, her maiden name, when she married, her parents names and, I guess, if I really wanted to, given an hour of so, I could have produced a family tree!

I have not shared this information with anyone but the exercise did bring home how easy it is to find information about our peers from the public domain and yet the 1921 census is far too sensitive.

Strange don't you think?

Roger.
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Re: Data Protection and the 1921 Census

Postby Guy » Mon Feb 20, 2012 12:02 pm

Very strange, though I must correct one error.
No personal information on any census taken under the 1920 Census Act (as amended) may ever be released under the law as it currently stands.
The claims by the National Archives are another instance of false propaganda by them.

This means that until there is a change in the law the 1911 census is the last census that will ever be released
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Re: Data Protection and the 1921 Census

Postby ritah » Wed Feb 22, 2012 4:21 pm

Hello Guy

I am catching up on new postings after a few days absence and found your reply about the 1921 census. I don't doubt the accuracy of what you say but just wondered what the National Archives have to gain from what you call 'false propoganda'.

Perhaps others have thoughts on this topic.

Rita
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Re: Data Protection and the 1921 Census

Postby junkers » Wed Feb 22, 2012 7:07 pm

Guy's comment about the 1921 census never being released is not correct, when the Information Commissioners considered requests for its release (which is available online, just type in 1921 census) the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that they would be release it in 2022 and it was accepted that ONS had the authority to release it. If it was never going to release then there woud be no need to keep it and it would probably have been destroyed as in other countries.
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Re: Data Protection and the 1921 Census

Postby Guy » Tue May 29, 2012 8:34 pm

junkers wrote:Guy's comment about the 1921 census never being released is not correct, when the Information Commissioners considered requests for its release (which is available online, just type in 1921 census) the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that they would be release it in 2022 and it was accepted that ONS had the authority to release it. If it was never going to release then there woud be no need to keep it and it would probably have been destroyed as in other countries.


That is exactley what the National Archives would like you to believe, however as the legislation stands today it would be illegal to release the 1921 census in 2022.
The 1920 Census Act as amended by the the Census (Confidentiality) Act 1991 does not allow the 1921 census to ever be released.

It is not up to the National Archives to decide that they will release it in 2022 it is a matter of the laws of England and Wales.

Incedentally I was one of the people that had direct contact with the Information Commissioner and he gave me no assurance that the 1921 census would be released in 2022.
He only refferred to the fact that the law does not allow any census taken under the 1920 Census Act as amended to be released.

The person who could release the census used to be the Registrar General but his authority to do so was removed by the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

The only way any further census may be released is by a change in the law.

Of course there is always the 1915 census (National Registration) which enumerated everyone (male and female) born between the 16th of August 1850 and the 15 August 1900.
Details enumerated -males
Surname, first name, permament address, present address if away from home, age last birthday, nationality, single/married or widower, how many children dependants (under 15 - over 15), how many other dependants (wholly dependant/patially dependant), occupation, name business and address of employer, employed by goverment, skilled in any other occupation.
There was a similar schedule for females.
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Guy
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Re: Data Protection and the 1921 Census

Postby Wallickswdytya » Mon Aug 13, 2012 2:01 pm

Do we all have to write to our MP to raise this issue and get the law changed?
Researching ancestry of TAMAR CRUDDAS and JAMES WALL m 12/5/1867
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Re: Data Protection and the 1921 Census

Postby junkers » Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:09 pm

I am quite sure that the 1921 Census will be released but not until 2022. Tne National Archives do not take that decision but it is made by the Registrar General and his staff. It would be absurd for government to store miles of paper which could never be released. My understanding from reading the Information Commissioner's replies to requests is that it is not releasable at this time and in advance of the 2022 release date. I am sure that in due course there will be an advert (as required) in the EU publications to offer a contract to digitise and index the census.

The point about family trees is well-made and this has been the case for many decades but information such as religion and immigration is different and the argument has always been made that unless people have confidence that the information they supply will be kept confidential for 100 years they will have no confidence to fill it in. Having said that the 2011 census was so weak from a family history standpoint to be useless for family history in 2112.
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Re: Data Protection and the 1921 Census

Postby MarySue » Mon Aug 13, 2012 8:44 pm

I've read through this thread with interest and thought I'd make a small contribution. We all know that 1911 census information was released earlier than expected due to representation by family researchers etc despite the law stating it could not be put into the public domain until the 100 years was complete. It would have meant almost certain meltdown for the first website to publish complete on 1 Jan 2012 and common sense prevailed and that didn't take place. We all know laws can be repealed so if representation by stakeholders and other interested parties ie: you and me, is made early enough we may yet have 1921 available before 2021. Thinking about probate research companies who trace heirs to unclaimed estates we know they can find living relatives and detailed information about families very quickly so it really does make a mockery of any laws and the privacy of individuals going back that far if much of the information on those census sheets is aready out there in the public domain anyway. Although the data protection act can be a bit of a problem for researchers and other fields of work I'm sure we can be optomistic and hope the 1921 census will be released beforehand. As is rightly said the 1915 lists would be helpful in the interim. Didn't I read somewhere that there is talk of the various registers(BMD etc) possibly being made available through digitisation and download to reduce costs, postage and waiting times?? I wonder how the data protection act would affect that especially as many registers around the country and in London are already available to download. Interesting times ahead.
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Re: Data Protection and the 1921 Census

Postby junkers » Mon Aug 13, 2012 9:35 pm

Marysue,

Many thanks for your contribution.

The 1911 census for England and Wales is slightly different as it was not covered by the Freedom of Information Act whereas the Scottish census was covered by their Freedom of Information Act and therefore Scotland released their records after 100 years and a few days. It is ironical as the 1911 census confidentiality was that the MInistry of Pensions did not use the censuses to check entitlement to Old Age Pensions and it is known (there is a file at The National Archives) that the Ministry of Pensions did use the 1911 census going against the government publically-announced embargo. The reasons why the probate researchers can find the information on prospective claimants is that it is in the public arena (births, marriages and deaths, wills and electoral rolls).

The situation with parish registers is (or should be) that baptisms should not be released after 1911 (ie 100 years) and less for marriages and deaths, although it is rather odd as you can go to a record office and look up the actual entry for a much later period. This is the type of system that is used by Scotland's People. The current problem is that digitisation is piecemeal (and mistranscribed!) and not the entire list and also it could lead to closure of archives, there is already a move to amalgamate archive offices and therefore staff losses.

The 1915 National Registration, where they survive, are closed for 100 years but you can apply under the Freedom of Inforamtion Act and a fee!.
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Re: Data Protection and the 1921 Census

Postby nzgenz » Tue Aug 14, 2012 5:34 am

I understand Guy is correct in that the 1921 census cannot be released without a change of the Data Protection Act. This, and other amendments to privacy and data legislation in England covers "personal information", and as something as obvious as a name is personal information, that means nothing can be released.

This was something of a let-down as the release of the 1911 UK census coincided with an international genealogy conference (which I was attending) and almost every session began with the speaker reiterating that the 1911 would be the last census available for general release and the reasons why. This also pops up periodically in various of the genealogy magazines, and on various family history society websites.

There is, however, the 1939 national survey which seems to have avoided being covered and I am interested to hear of the 1915 'census', which I have to admit I have not heard of before and will explore - many thanks for the information.

Lobbying MPs for a change in the legislation might be a good start.

Andrea
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