This month at Pharos we are very excited about the release of the 1921 census in the New Year. Our tutor, Emma Jolly, has put together some information for you and we have some links to more information, including how the census was digitised. As many of you will know, Emma is the author of “A Guide to Tracing Your Family History using the Census”, a guide to the earlier census records from Pen & Sword.
1921 Census Release
The 1921 Census for England and Wales will be published online by Findmypast on 6 January 2022. It’s particularly significant for anyone looking at ancestors in England and Wales as the 1931 Census does not survive and there was no 1941 census. The team at Ancestry has clarified that they do not have a set timeframe for when the 1921 census will become available on Ancestry.
The 1921 Scottish census is being released by ScotlandsPeople on their website. The release of the census was originally planned for the summer of 2021 (before the one for England and Wales) before being pushed towards the end of 2021, and then again to the latter half of 2022.
The English and Welsh 1921 census was taken on the 19th of June 1921 at a time when the population for England and Wales stood at over 37 million. The census includes the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, as well as soldiers overseas. The census was taken at a fascinating period between two world wars, following the Spanish Flu pandemic, and at a time when some women had won the right to vote.
There were significant political and social events taking place during the census process, notably the lead up to the signing and ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in December. However, for the census itself and for most of our ancestors, of whatever social class they may have been - the most significant national event of the year was the coal miner’s strike and its fallout.
The census was planned to take place on the 24th April. But on 31st March, a state of emergency was declared after the coal miners' called a strike. As a result of this, on 3rd April, coal rationing was introduced - thus affecting the heating and food preparation for many if not all of our UK ancestors. On 15 April 1921 - the day now referred to as Black Friday - the leaders of transport and rail unions announced a decision not to call for strike action in support of the miners. Despite the decision against fully-fledged strike action, transport and rail workers were ordered not to handle imported coal. Some workers were unhappy with this limited action. On the same day, wage reductions were imposed on merchant seamen, leading to a well-supported general strike at the docks which lasted for over a month. Transport and rail leaders were widely criticised for their actions. The census was delayed by nearly two months in the wake of Black Friday, with the strike carrying on to the end of June.
The date chosen (19th June) avoided the big industrial holidays of the North but did clash with the Macclesfield industrial holiday; and the census shows increases in population for certain seaside towns, such as a 64% increase in Blackpool and a 50% increase in Southend-on-Sea (although both towns had been growing at this time).
Another notable aspect is that as this was the first census after the First World War, children were asked whether their mother or their father or both were dead. Another interesting feature, the first time people were asked whether a marriage had been dissolved by divorce. They were asked about the workplace of their employer. This means we can find out exactly where our ancestors were employed and who they worked alongside.
Sadly, perhaps, from a genealogists’ viewpoint, the 1911 census’s fertility question - asking about the length of the present marriage and the total number of children born and the number still living was removed, and in 1921 they only asked about how many children or stepchildren the family had, and how many were still alive.
For Wales and Monmouthshire, there was an extra question for each person (over three years) on whether they spoke English and Welsh, English only or Welsh only.
Also, the question about blindness, deafness or dumbness were removed on the grounds that the parents had objected to giving this information about their children with the result that answers given in the previous census were unreliable.
Findmypast has now announced they will charge £2.50 for every record transcript and £3.50 for every original record image. For all 12-month Pro subscribers, there will be a 10% discount on any 1921 Census purchases. A subscription won’t be required to access 1921 census transcripts and images. It will only be available via pay-per-view access for the initial period.
The index will be free to search and the free search results will show names, birthplaces and years and registration districts. Findmypast is also introducing a preview of the original record that will indicate other household members to help ensure you're purchasing the right record.
To access the actual census images for free, genealogists will need to go to The National Archives at Kew, the Manchester Central Library, or the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.
For more information on the 1921 census, including how the census was digitised, see the following links: