The 1921 census - everything you need to know!
The 1921 census for England and Wales is now available online. Here is everything you need to know about the 1921 census including how to access it and what it will tell you.
Do you have any questions about the release of the 1921 census for England and Wales? We are here to help with our guide to everything you need to know about the 1921 census and how to use it to find your British ancestors.
How to access the 1921 census
The 1921 census for England and Wales is now available on Findmypast via Findmypast's newly introduced Premium subscription package. The Premium package costs £199.99 for 12 months (or £16.67 per month). Any existing subscribers who wish to upgrade can do so on a pro-rata basis. Existing 12-month Pro subscribers, who benefitted from a 10% loyalty discount on 1921 Census purchases, can upgrade to the Premium subscription for just £19.99. Findmypast subscribers on other subscription tiers can view the census records for micropayments of £2.50 per transcription or £3.50 per image. Findmypast also now has a hub of free 1921 census records for National Trust properties.
How to access the 1921 census for Scotland
The 1921 census for Scotland is available on ScotlandsPeople, the Scottish government records website. As with other records on the website, you can purchase credits to view them, starting at 30 credits for £7.50. Each record costs six credits, worth £1.50, to view.
When was the 1921 census released?
The 1921 census for England and Wales was released on commercial family history website Findmypast on 6 January 2022. It couldn't be released sooner because under privacy laws, census records cannot be opened to the public until 100 years have passed. The 1921 census is particularly important because the 1931 census records were destroyed in the Blitz and no census was taken in 1941 because of the Second World War, so it is the last census release until the release of the 1951 census, which is due in 2052.
Why is the 1921 census not on Ancestry?
The 1921 census will be exclusively available on Findmypast for up to three years (until 2025), after which The National Archives (TNA) will be able to set up deals with other partners such as Ancestry, TheGenealogist or MyHeritage. As with previous record digitisation projects, such as the 1911 census release, Findmypast owns its transcription but the copyright for the images is with TNA. This means, when the exclusive relationship comes to an end, other competitors will have to license the images from TNA and the transcription from Findmypast (or, as Ancestry and TheGenealogist did with 1911, create their own transcription).
When was the 1921 census taken?
The 1921 census was taken on 19 June 1921. It was originally due to be taken on 24 April, but industrial upheaval intervened. In the event, there was no general strike, but by then the date of the census had been moved. You can read more about the historical background to the 1921 census here.
How to access the 1921 census for free
You can view 1921 census records for free at access hubs at The National Archives in London, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and Manchester Central Library. The census is also now available on some local library services that offer Findmypast Library Edition - check with your local library to see if that's the case for you.
What questions were asked in the 1921 census?
The 1921 census did not ask radically different questions to previous censuses. Details such as name, age, marital status, relationship to the head of the household, address and occupation were still required, but there were some new additions and important changes, including the removal of disability questions.
Ages were now required in years and months and ‘D’ for divorce was added as an option for marital status for the first time. Concern about the number of children who may have lost a father during the First World War, meant that a question was added for all children under 15, asking if both parents were alive or if they had lost one, or both.
Respondents were asked to name their employer as well as their occupation, opening up the possibility of finding employment records in archives.
Married men, widowers and widows were also asked to state how many living children under 15 they had, regardless of whether they were residing in the household on the night of the census.
Why can't I find someone on the 1921 census?
When the 1921 census launched in January, there were issues with the quality of the transcription, making it difficult for many people to find their family. However, Findmypast are working hard to implement corrections. We have also put together a guide to using the census, including tips on how to flush out elusive ancestors.
A number of schedules suffered water damage in the 1930s, although only 0.35 per cent of the collection was damaged so badly that it cannot be read. Apart from that, the collection is remarkably complete so if you cannot find an ancestor, it is worth considering mistranscription first. Other options may be that your ancestor was abroad at the time or gave false information. Military personnel, including RAF staff, based in overseas stations were included.
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Sarah Williams is the editor of Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine