Tuesday, 13 January 2009

The 1911 census is online

Today is the day that many amateur genealogists have been waiting for with bated breath: the release of the the 1911 census data for England (those for Wales, as well as a few English counties, will follow later).

The 1911 census is interesting for all sorts of reasons. For starters, it was the first Census where individual household returns were preserved: previously, the records were destroyed once the transcripts had been completed. This means that you can see the returns in your ancestor's own handwriting - complete with mistakes and alterations, together with any comments the enumerator may have added later.

It also asked a number of questions about the life of the household: questions included asking how long the householders had been married, and how many children had been born to that union - including those that had died. It was also notable for a boycott by many suffragettes, angered that they were still being denied the vote, with the slogan "No Vote, No census".

Finally, it was compiled before the 1920 Act which prevented the census details from being released for 100 years, and the Government has bowed to pressure to release it earlier than the customary period. The early release, coupled with longer life expectancy, means that there are several thousand people mentioned on the Census who are still alive today - and for many, it will provide an insight into the lives of their parents and grandparents.

However, those looking for details the 1911 Census in Scotland will be disappointed, as the Data Protection laws there mean that the 100 year rule will apply, so those with Scottish ancestors will have to wait until 2011. There are also some areas where the records have been lost, so there will still be some frustrated searchers even in England.

The information is being hosted by the site findmypast.com, which means that the public will have to pay for the details, either for a transcript or (more) for a copy of the original. Hopes are high that the site will not repeat the problems of the launch of the 1901 census, which crashed its site after a matter of hours, due to the huge volume of people searching.

Happy hunting!

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