Your questions answered about the 1921 census
We asked Findmypast to answer reader questions about the 1921 census release in January and this is what they said...
Thursday 6 January 2022 will see the release of the 1921 census of England and Wales online and, for many of us, the arrival of the answers to long-standing family mysteries. With the 1931 and 1941 censuses having been, respectively, destroyed by fire and cancelled because of the war, the 1921 census is a vital window on the early 20th century.
Findmypast was chosen by The National Archives (TNA) to complete the skilled and time-consuming task of making this census of almost 38 million people available for everyone online. Transcriptions and digital images of its pages will be free to access at TNA, and via pay-per-view on findmypast.co.uk. We asked Alex Cox from Findmypast some questions about what we can expect from the upcoming release – and here’s what he revealed…
How to access the 1921 census for England and Wales online
The 1921 census of England and Wales will be available to everyone from 00.01am on 6 January 2022. Registered users of findmypast.co.uk can search the census for free, but must pay to view the records using micropayments (which have replaced credits) on the website. Each record transcript will cost £2.50 to view, while you’ll pay £3.50 for original record images. There will be a 10 per cent discount for all 12-month ‘Pro’ subscribers to Findmypast.
For more information including a video about the digitisation process, an insight into what life was like in the early 1920s and details of how to subscribe to an email newsletter keeping you up to date with developments, visit findmypast.co.uk/1921-census.
What will the census tell us about England and Wales in 1921?
It has been a great honour for Findmypast to work alongside TNA as its commercial partner to reveal the extraordinary stories captured by the 1921 census of England and Wales. Taken between two world wars, following a global flu pandemic, during a period of economic turmoil and migration from the UK, and with social change at home as women won the right to vote, the census documents a moment in time that will resonate with people living today.
What extra information will be included in the 1921 census?
This census provides greater detail than any previously published. In addition to the questions asked in 1911, the 1921 returns also required respondents to reveal their place of employment, what materials they worked with and their employer’s name. Those aged 15 and older had to provide information about their marital status, including whether they were divorced, while for those under 15 the census recorded whether both parents were alive, or if either or both had died.
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Will Findmypast connect 1921 census results to other records, such as maps?
Yes – results will be linked to potential matches in other collections such as military, previous censuses, civil registrations, parish records and much more. Relevant maps will also be included in each transcript to show people where their ancestors lived. Additionally, users will be able to vary the historical map layer to see how locations have changed across different eras of history.
Are there any missing or damaged schedules in the 1921 census?
There are no known missing volumes in the 1921 census. Regrettably part of the collection was damaged by water at some point in the 1930s. That said, our conservation team has spent many painstaking hours restoring these documents, and only 0.35 per cent of the collection was damaged so badly that it is now totally illegible.
Will you be able to search the 1921 census for free?
Yes, there will be a free search available. Given that users have to pay to access transcripts and digitised page images of the 1921 census, we understand how important it will be for you to feel confident that the record you purchase is the one you want. Every user will have access to both simple and more advanced search fields for 1921 census data – meaning that you can search not only on names and locations, but also on other household members, occupations and other biographical details captured in the census forms. The results pages will show (with no charge) names of individuals, their year and place of birth, and the registration district in which they were located when the census was taken. A ‘hover-over’ preview will also indicate the names of a couple of other members of the same household. All of this will mean you can be confident that you are purchasing the right record for the family you are searching for.
Why is there a charge at all to access the 1921 census if this is public information?
The cost of creating digital images from the paper originals, transcribing those records and building the infrastructure to present the images and data to the general public was beyond the resources of TNA alone. It therefore offered opportunities for private businesses – such as Findmypast – to work with it in widening access to the records it holds, by digitising them and offering online access to users from their homes.
This eagerly anticipated release is the culmination of almost three years of highly skilled work to digitise the 1921 census for online publication. Conserving, digitising, transcribing and building an experience that enables meaningful, accurate searches of these important records has required significant investment from Findmypast. The online search functionality built by our team is also better than ever before.
How can people access the 1921 census for free?
The 1921 census for England and Wales will be free to view for visitors to The National Archives at Kew, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth and Manchester Central Library.