Guy Etchells' four very important questions about the 1921 Census that must be asked!


08 January 2020
In just over two years’ time the 1921 census will be released. Guy Etchells has four very important questions that we might all like to consider...

Guy Etchells is well-known for his forward-thinking attitude towards historic record collections, and the census in particular. Here he shares his views on what we might like to consider, when thinking about the much-anticipated release of the 1921 Census in early 2022...


In just over two years’ time the 1921 Census will be released. This census unlike earlier censuses was taken as of the night of Sun/Mon, June 19/20 1921, as it had been delayed due to a miners’ dispute.

This was not the only difference between the 1921 Census and those previously taken and a number of those differences may be very useful for the family historian, though some may prove to be inaccurate.
There are also four very important questions that must be asked but more on this later!

One of the most useful additions appears in the ‘Marriage or Orphanhood’ column where the householder has to state whether the persons over 15 are ‘Single, Married, Widowed, Divorced or Judicially Separated’. Those under 15 are to state whether ‘Father is dead, Mother is dead, or Both are dead’.

Ages are to be shown not only in years but in years and months.

The above details should help trace the death of a parent who has died between 1911 and 1921, in addition married men, widowers and widows (but for some reason not married women) have to state the number of children they have had, there are also other smaller changes which will help to build a picture of individuals and families.

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All in all I believe the 1921 will prove to be a very useful addition to the family historian.

However the big questions alluded to earlier are

(1) “Is this census complete?”
Why do I ask that – Simple, the 1921 Census was the first census to include the option that allowed a person to make a confidential return they could do this by telling the enumerator when he/she delivered the schedule, such schedules were noted as such in the enumerator’s returns and given to the enumerator in a sealed envelope.
(2) “Are those confidential returns contained in the records to be released or have they been omitted?”

(3) “If they have been omitted are they still in existence or have they been destroyed?”

(4) Bearing in mind the people had the choice to return open or closed returns why have the open records been withheld for 100 years and one day when the people enumerated had no concerns about the privacy of those records?


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