Friday, January 16, 2009

1911 census of England and Wales

Renee's note: The following was written by a good friend, Henry Mantall, in England. He is doing a fantastic job indexing and I asked him to give us a little insight into the project.

1911 census (document references RG14 and RG780 form a large collection occupying 2 kilometres of shelving at the National Archives. It consists of 8 million householder schedules and a further 38,000 enumerator summary books and is estimated to contain 36 million individuals living in England and Wales in April 1911

The digital collection when complete will create 18 million digital images, roughly 14 times the 1901 census.

Unlike the earlier collections of enumerators schedules (1841-1901) you will view the householder schedule completed in many cases by your own ancestor.

Householders are asked to provide the length of their marriage and how many children in total, how many alive and how many dead. Unlike previous census, enumerators have space to tallyor record their data and are required to use coloured ink. This makes the earlier problems of obliteration by overwriting rare in my experience of beta test images. The digital image quality is high and downloaded jpg enables magnification so entries are legible.

Prior to the September quarter of 1911 registration of Births in England and Wales did not require the mother’s maiden name to be recorded.

The 1991 census is a precise genealogical tool which points to:

Year of marriage (with no enumerator rounding )

The total family size and disclosure of deceased children, which is unprecedented..

The discovery of deceased children requires family historians to devise a research strategy to identify previously unknown children.

My personal strategy is to examine the known family group on a timeline from date of marriage and consider potential earlier births/deaths predating the marriage. Where significant gaps are found between children, which might permit pregnancy and live birth I search for deaths. I do this both through and where available the index of primary registration in local registration district within the county. London registration districts for common surnames represent particular challenges where the surname is numerous. I request searches at local register office to try to identify the correct parent. If a death is identified the registrar is often able to identify a registered birth. It helps if the family are resident in only one registration district! It should be borne in mind that year of birth and year of registration may be some years apart and a death certificate may be male/female for an unnamed child. Each quarterly index also has male/female registrations without surname which need to be considered too (these are available on microfiche or microfilm or online image collections if you look at the pages following Z.)

One potential difficulty with the 1911 census is the national boycott called by the Women’s Suffrage Movement.

Women were called to boycott the census as a means of peaceful protest by holding parties on the evening of the census absenting them from home. Until the census is completely available it is difficult to estimate the size of boycott. In beta testing I have found mother and daughters absent from home as anticipated due to the known and recorded role of mother in the Movement. Images record write in protests from women(and men) The scale of this problem is difficult to estimate.

The 1911 census is exclusively available through and its dedicated website which has a good deal of information about the project. And what information is being withheld until 2012. the project will be made available online in 2009. At the conclusion of the beta test more than 50% of English Counties are completely available mostly in the South of England. For those awaiting Cheshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and the populous cities of Lancashire Yorkshire and the North East there is the message “coming soon”. Welsh counties will follow completion of the English collection.

Update: The 1911 census went public Jan 12, 2009,
Additional counties of Cheshire, Derbyshire, Lancashire and West Riding of Yorkshire have been added (along with others) greatly expanding the cities in the collection. Some search facilities are off to protect the server from overwhelming demand.

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