The 1921 Census

Welcome to the 1921Census.org.uk site ...information about the 1921 census, when it will be available, what information was recorded, what alternatives are available while we wait, and much, much, more.

The 1921 Census

This site concentrates on the 1921 Census for England, Wales and Scotland which was taken on the night of Sunday 19th June 1921.

However there is information on other censuses which were taken the same year since an attempt was made to take a census as far as possible throughout the Empire, for example in Australia, Canada, India, New Zealand and South Africa.

There is also more on the census that should have been taken but wasn't, the 1921 Census of Ireland.

If you are interested in other United Kingdom censuses from 1881 through to 1931 as well as the information gathered in 1939 for the National Identity Card, there are more details on our sister site 1911census.org.uk.

1921 Census for England, Wales and Scotland

It had been originally planned that the census for England, Wales and Scotland (and the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man as well) would be taken on the night of 24th April 1921 but was postponed by almost two months in the wake of the Black Friday strike by coal miners, railwaymen and transport workers. There was concern that the new date could mean that results would be affected by holiday-making but the date chosen did avoid the "big industrial holidays of the North" although it did clash with the Macclesfield industrial holiday. It turned out that the census did show very striking increases in population for certain seaside towns, for example a 64% increase in Blackpool and a 50% increase in Southend-on-Sea, although both towns had been growing and Southend-on-Sea had showed the highest growth between 1901 and 1911.

This holiday-making affect does mean that when genealogists finally get to see the details of their families in the 1921 Census, they may not be where they expected them to be and families may also be fragmented.

The 1921 Census showed Great Britain had a population of 42,767,530 in 1921, an increase of 4.7% over 1911, with 20,430,623 males and 22,336,907 females.

What information did the 1921 Census gather?

The questions asked for each person were:

The enumerator who collected the form was also responsible for recording the number of "living rooms" at the premises.

New questions asked over the 1911 Census included whether a marriage has been dissolved by divorce - it was felt that as divorces had greatly increased in the years up to 1921, it was important to know exactly how many there were. In the event, 16682 people were said to be divorced on the returns, however there was considerable doubt post-census on the reliability of these numbers.

Another new question was where each person worked, in particular to obtain information about the travelling involved in getting to work.

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 and for Scotland there were extra questions about whether each person (over three years) spoke Gaelic only and also whether they were entitled to benefits under the National Insurance (Health) Acts.

The so called "fertility" question introduced in 1911 about the number of years of the marriage and the number of children was dropped, the reason given was that the results from the previous census had not yet been tabulated. 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.

You can download a copy of the 1921 Census form (the household form for England) here, courtesy of the ONS (Office for National Statistics) web site.

Accessing the 1921 Census .... when will the 1921 Census be released?

The ruling by the Information Commissioner that resulted in the 1911 Census for England and Wales being opened early does not apply to the 1921 Census because, unlike the 1911 Census, the 1921 Census was conducted under the 1920 Census Act, which is still in force and which contains a statutory prohibition on disclosure.

The stated government position from the ONS is "its intention to release the entirety of the 1921 Census returns in 2022, in accordance with the non-statutory '100 year rule' which was adopted to reflect this undertaking of confidentiality".

Despite numerous protestations and challenges, the Government seems to be firmly sticking to the 100 year rule. One reason could of course be that if a census does go ahead in 2021 then there would have to be strong promises of confidentiality and that would not sit easily alongside the government suddenly releasing the 1921 census early when the promise was made at the time that the information on individuals would never be made public.

What are the alternatives while I wait for the 1921 Census to be released?

The big advantage of a census is that, where the family is living together, it lists the family, altogether and in one place and gives relationships between the family members.

There are some alternatives available which for some of the population can enable you to build lists of family members living at the same address but unfortunately only for some family members.

The first of these are Electoral Registers or Electoral Rolls. By 1921 all men in the United Kingdom over 21 and many women over 30 had the right to vote and their names appear in the electoral registers (all women over 21 gained the right to vote in 1928 but it was not until 1971 that the age was lowered to 18).

These registers are starting to appear, mainly on commercial genealogy websites. For example Findmypast were first in November 2011 with the Cheshire Electoral Records covering the period 1842-1900 and about four million names. Ancestry quickly followed in January 2012 with the London Electoral Registers covering the period 1835 to 1965. Findmypast are also working in conjunction with the British Library to index their substantial collection of Electoral Registers and also are planning to add those for Manchester.

For more details on Electoral Registers, see our sister site electoralregisters.org.uk.

A second source are School Admission Registers, obviously highlighting the younger generation who were too young to vote.

School Admission Registers typically list address and a parent's name so if a number of a children all attended the same school, details can be obtained.

However many (but not all) of the organisations making registers available online are following the 100 year rule, in other words only making the admissions registers available where the children were born at least 100 years ago and therefore where this happens, it does not provide an alternative while waiting for the 1921 census although it may show a few children born in the years immediately after the 1911 Census was taken..

For more details on School Admission Registers, see our sister site schoolrecords.org.uk.


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