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Access to the 1921 census

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ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date

Mick in the Sticks

Mick in the Sticks Report 31 Jul 2010 11:23

Government policy, or rather the distrust of it has always influenced personal information in the various censi. The 1851 census was the first to contain birthplace information. However many individuals simply lied and put their current location as their place of birth due to fears that information could be used against them. At this time although Removal Orders had been abolished, the knowledge of them still heavily weighed in peoples minds, some who would have been painfully subjected to them earlier in their lives. Do not forget in the past, a number of enumerators were killed and others seriously injured due to distrust.

I have already said it twice in this debate and will say it again, most of the genealogical information required from 1911 up to 2005 can be readily obtained by cross referencing BMD's and other availiable information. The main thing that is not there is address information, occupation status and who was living in a houisehold at a particular time. On the latter we simply do not known that information for the years in between censi anyway. On the former, electoral roles and telephone directories greatly assist in filling in the blanks.

I do not use the 1911 census. Apart from not being able to afford the high cost, I have found I simple do not need it. Brainpower and research of other existing information usually fills in any gaps. I already know the relationships of most people my reasonably large tree in 1921. I also already know that same information for 1931/41/51/61/71/81/91/2001-2005 and all years inbetween.

Why all this fuss to to speed up the process to find a few missing pieces of information to that which is already availiable is something I find difficult to understand.

Don't forget, there was no internet assistance when people like I and many other started genealogical research. However, this did not stop us successfully creating our trees.



Guy Report 31 Jul 2010 12:05

Secret Red “How could you know with certainty what was common knowledge back then? People kept things secret from neighbours, even down to their names and true ages? Besides I'm not arguing from a legal point of view but purely from an expectation of privacy for specifically those who are living who don't want people TODAY to know their background. There will be some from that era who may not want their details spread across the internet.”

I cannot of course know for certain but the newspapers of the time carried stories about census entries.
Even as early as 1851 newspapers carried comments about and from the census.
For instance the Portsmouth woman who declared herself head of the house.
She apparently listed herself as a mangleworker and her husband’s occupation as ‘turns my mangle’.

Such reports as that in newspapers and the comments in newspapers and magazines of the time would give rise to the assumption by the population that the census was open to scrutiny.

Don’t forget the 1841 and the 1851 census were released a few years before in 1912.

“You also mentioned (on chat) that you would be quite happy for the census details today to be released after it had been of some use with sensitive data removed .”

Ye I was asked what my personal feeling about such records was. I also stated the official recommendation for most public records was to reduce the closure period from 30 years to 15 years and there was a recommendation for the census to be open after 80 years.
I acknowledged I would be happy with that situation.

I don’t see how I am casting aside others when I state I support sensitive information being redacted (withheld).

If someone feels that age for instance is sensitive then it is for them to show why they think that is sensitive.

Rambling Rose

Rambling Rose Report 31 Jul 2010 12:46

How do you expect the 'sensitive information' that someone is in prison to be 'redacted' or that 'grandad is living with her down the road and not his wife and kids'? THAT is sensitive in my view...not whether someone was blind deaf or dumb...

WHO decides what constitutes "sensitive"? Will you be the judge of whether the conditions of my family in 1961 ( the first census I appear on) are "sensitive" to those living now? or is that to be done by 'democratically elected MPs'...the ones I didn't vote for at this last election!


skwirrel Report 31 Jul 2010 14:01

The 100 year closure was never a 'promise' to the people, it was decided by govt alone, more than likely to hide their own dark secrets.

I know a lot of elderly people who would be on the 1921 census and would love to see it for themselves.

This debate cuts both ways, but the old adage 'don't look if you don't want to know' would still apply to those against the request.

Well done Guy.


TootyFruity Report 31 Jul 2010 14:13

The are many who would and equally many that would not like their personal details in the public domain.

To say just don't look is naive why should a complete stranger have access to my LIVING families details. They are PERSONAL to my family. Perhaps then if you wish then you should be allowed to petition for a particular extract rather than full access and information given out only if a close family connection established and if a person is living consent obtained.

It is also naive to think a change in the law is just for the 1921. RR is right when she says it is the thin end of the wedge. The LIVING should be protected from the prying eyes of others.


Guy Report 31 Jul 2010 15:55

How do you expect the 'sensitive information' that someone is in prison to be 'redacted' or that 'grandad is living with her down the road and not his wife and kids'? THAT is sensitive in my view...not whether someone was blind deaf or dumb...

The first point about the person in prison I would not expect to be redacted.
Why should it, if a person commits a crime then I believe they should pay the consequences. If that is a census entry that shows then to be in prison then so be it.

The census would not show that granddad was living down the road with a woman rather than with his wife and kids.
It would show that the man and the woman shared the same house not their sleeping arrangements.
There could be 101 reasons for the couple to be living apart the majority not judgemental.
Perhaps that reveals more about the person reading the census than the person living apart from his wife and children.

”WHO decides what constitutes "sensitive"? Will you be the judge of whether the conditions of my family in 1961 ( the first census I appear on) are "sensitive" to those living now? or is that to be done by 'democratically elected MPs'...the ones I didn't vote for at this last election!”

Possibly the same people as decide whether to deprive a person of information under the European Convention of Human Rights or not.
You see article 10 provides for Freedom of Expression which includes –“This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”

It would however be foolish to think that everyone has the right to be given every piece of information about everyone else. A compromise has to be reached.
One person’s freedom may impinge on another’s freedom therefore a balance has to be reached.

In a democracy we choose to let our democratically elected representative make such decisions for us.

Rambling Rose

Rambling Rose Report 31 Jul 2010 16:20

Guy thankyou for being so frank...I started out as a 'floating voter' on this one...but you've certainly convinced me of exactly where I stand on it.


applebygypsy Report 1 Aug 2010 12:22

I honestly think this could be a good idea. There was a world war during this period of census when so many families lost relatives, not only those who were serving soldiers. I have many relatives on the European continent, innocent civilians who were killed. I know they are not included in the 1921 British Census but relaxing our rules helps other countries to be freer with theirs.I would prefer it to be a free release and to reduce the census releases to 90 years and not the 100 it stands at at present. One census released earlier should not cause any problems even with the freedom of information act. The USA seem to have no problems with their 70 year old census releases. I would support Guy in his quest, and not because my partner has a son also called Guy Etchells.

~~~Secret Red ^^ Squirrel~~~  **007 1/2**

~~~Secret Red ^^ Squirrel~~~ **007 1/2** Report 1 Aug 2010 16:51

As this is a duplicate posting of sorts albeit this is the original, I thought you may wish to see further discussion on chat:


sonearsofar Report 1 Aug 2010 21:24

Has the 1939 National Registration already been released?
Thank you


Guy Report 2 Aug 2010 16:56

Yes since November last year.
For England and Wales see

For Scotland see



sonearsofar Report 2 Aug 2010 18:57

Hello Guy
Thank you for your reply
I had seen a while ago you were trying to get It released, thats brilliant,

Chris in Sussex

Chris in Sussex Report 2 Aug 2010 19:05

I really want the release of the 1921 census early.....Selfishly 'cause I may not make it until 2021 and the info may further my research before I go!.

But then again....

My Ancestors believed they gave the info subject to a 100 year closure rule and who am I to deny them their right?!




Guy Report 2 Aug 2010 20:47

Chris, the 100 year closure rule was not invented until 1966 by the Lord Chancellor’s Instrument number 12.

That was 45 years after the census was taken

In 1912 the 1841 and the 1851 census were released.
That means those census were closed for 70 years and 60 years respectively.

At the time of the 1921 census that average closure period for census was 80 years.

The first census to carry an assurance of 100 years closure was the 1981 census.
The only other two census to carry that assurance were the 1991 and the 2001 census.


JaneyCanuck Report 2 Aug 2010 22:10

So much for not spreading the same topic around different boards ...

I haven't read this entire thread but I see Guy's post above:

mayfly: Has the 1939 National Registration already been released?

Guy: Yes since November last year.

So I see my post of today in the thread on Chat is right on point here, and I shall reproduce it for the information of anyone who might otherwise be misled, *misleading* being exactly what Guy is being here.

Guy, will you do your readers the simple basic courtesy of making straightforward, true statements, even just every once in a while?

"The NHS IC have launched a search service that returns details for those registered who are now deceased.
The NHS IC also provide free of charge details to living people under the Data Protection Act.

That means that living people can obtain their details from the 1939 National Registration.
Details covering deceased people registered on the 1939 National Registration can be obtained from the NHS IC.

That only leaves the tiny proportion whose whereabouts cannot be ascertained.
That tiny proportion around 2% contains the only records from the 1939 National Registration that are at present still closed records."

When we read through that verbiage, what we get is:

1. Living individuals may access THEIR OWN personal information from the 1939 National Registration.

2. Third parties may access another person's personal information from the 1939 National Registration IF THAT PERSON IS PROVED TO BE DECEASED.

3. NO ONE may access the personal information of any other person from the 1939 National Registration if the person's whereabouts (i.e. status as living or dead) cannot be ascertained.

IS THAT what you are saying?

So why are you not saying what it really all means:

A huge number of records from the 1939 National Registration MAY NOT BE ACCESSED by any third party, because the individuals whose records they are are still living.

(my emphasis - ">>>>")

"Guy Etchells who was responsible for the challenge to the Information Commissioner that resulted in the 1911 census for England and Wales being released "early" (well early as far as the government was concerned) has also challenged the refusal of the NHS Information Centre to release information taken during the 1939 Identity Card Registration and in late 2009 received a ruling by the Information Commissioner partially in his favour >>>> where that information relates to deceased persons.

In response to this and a large number of people following Guy's lead and also making requests, the National Health Service Information Centre announced at the end of January 2010 a formal service for people to request data held on the 1939 Register for England and Wales. There is a charge for this - £42 - and >>>> data will only be released for individuals who have died and are now recorded as deceased."

Why are you trying to obfuscate here?

You say:

"All they achieved was restricting less than 2% of the 1939 National Registration the other 98% is now open.
The only closed records now are those for the few whose whereabouts cannot be traced today.
All the others are open by one of two alternative ways of access."

Those two ways are:

1. Prove the person in question IS DECEASED.
2. Prove that ONE IS the person in question.

There is NO PUBLIC ACCESS to those records in any other case.

So your statement -- "All they achieved was restricting less than 2% of the 1939 National Registration the other 98% is now open." -- is FLAT OUT FALSE. Access to that 2% is DENIED. Access to the records of people not proved to be deceased is SEVERELY RESTRICTED -- it is restricted to THE PERSON THEMSELF. Access to those records IS NOT "OPEN". And yet you say it is.

Now, will YOU distinguish between those records and census records?

What reason do YOU advance for releasing personal information about living individuals in census records vs. not releasing personal information about living individuals in the 1939 National Registration records?

You are campaigning for full public access to 1921 census records.

Full public access to 1939 National Registration records has already been denied.

You described the 1939 info here:

"There no sensitive facts on the 1939 National Registration as the particulars asked were-
1. Names.
2. Sex.
3. Age.
4. Occupation, profession, trade or employment.
5. Residence.
6. Condition as to marriage.
7. Membership of Naval, Military or Air Force Reserves or Auxiliary Forces or of Civil Defence Services or Reserves."

just as you do here, re census information that is essentially the same as that. You refuse to acknowledge that your opinion that such information is not "sensitive" is no more than your opinion. That is what it is. And no more. And quite obviously, it is far from authoritative.


JaneyCanuck Report 2 Aug 2010 22:35

James, re your post dated yesterday at 12:22:

You have named your partner's son. Did you ask his consent before discussing him, by name, on the internet? I doubt it.

There have been 3 people with that name born in England/Wales since 1916, all in the 1970s. One will be the person posting in this thread, your stepson will be one of the two others. It's hardly like his name is John Smith, although even then, it would be absolutely inappropriate for you to state his name in a public forum without his knowledge or consent.

A bit of a case in point when it comes to the regard some have for other people's privacy and personal information, and/or how some just don't stop to think.

Would you perhaps remove that clause from your post?


JaneyCanuck Report 2 Aug 2010 22:56

Guy, your question on page 4 re the European Council (Framework) Census Regulation:

"Perhaps someone could explain to me why this country has to supply a group of foreign countries the above details (which comes under legislation with a 30 year disclosure limit, recommended to be reduced to 15 years) when the 1921 census is withheld for ever."

Perhaps you can explain to me and the assembled readers why you have made a false statement. I mean, you wouldn't be asking for someone to explain something to you unless you were asserting that the thing that needs explaining is true, right?

Is this the one?

This is what it says.

Data transmission
2. Member States shall provide the Commission (Eurostat) with final, validated and aggregated data and with metadata, as required by this Regulation, within 27 months of the end of the reference year.

"Metadata" are not relevant for our purposes. Do you know what "aggregated data" are?

If you do, you know that the term refers to *non-personalized data* -- data in which individuals *cannot be identified*.

Unless I am very sadly mistaken, the data being disclosed to this "group of foreign countries" -- a group to which the UK belongs, so even your characterization of it is inaccurate and misleading -- are NOT individual census records.

The data being disclosed to the EU are the same data that UK statisticians use to produce reports from the most recent censuses, and make available to academics and the private sector, for instance, as soon as the compilation is complete. Those data DO NOT show that there is one unemployed person living on your block of the street, let alone that you are an unemployed person; they show the number of unemployed people in a particular census division, the divisions always being large enough that the aggregated data do *not* identify persons or disclose information about persons.

So perhaps YOU can explain why you have made such an entirely false statement.

I suggested on the other thread that perhaps your problems stem not from malice, but from you being out of your depth.

You apparent failure even to understand the concept of "the public interest" and to understand (although easily ascertained) what UK census data are in fact submitted to the EU is tending to support the latter thesis.


Guy Report 3 Aug 2010 22:49

It is good to see that growing numbers of MPs are replying to letters asking for a change in the census legislation.
A good proportion of these replies are supporting the change.

The more MPs that support the change in legislation the more chance it will be changed to allow the release.

Thanks to all those who have already written to their MP and thanks to all those who have taken the time and effort to email me and write to me to inform me of the replies you have received.


JaneyCanuck Report 3 Aug 2010 23:51

Do you have a reason for joining this website other than to promote yourself, Guy?

It obviously and certainly is not to participate in civil discussion with other members.


Guy Report 4 Aug 2010 07:28

Janey I will happily participate in a discussion with anyone.
I will not discuss with a person whose ideas of a discussion is to be discourteous, throw insults, twist what I have written or intimate that I am lying.

I do you and everyone else here the courteously of using my own name which allows you and everyone else here the opportunity to research my background, motives and other statements I have made over the years.

I read and respond to points raised without twisting what has been said, I also try to look at a discussion from both sides and respond to the points raised rather than trying to score points by trying to blacken the character of those who take a different stance from myself.

I totally understand that cultural differences and the fact that writing does not show the inflections of the spoken word can make a difference in comprehension between one forum member and another.

I find your postings insulting to the extreme and will only reply to your postings if you moderate your tone.