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Access to the 1921 census

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ProfilePosted byOptionsPost Date


JaneyCanuck Report 20 Aug 2010 19:12

What you said was that she had the child in 1920 and was thrown out of the household, so I didn't see how 1921 would help. Perhaps it would.

The household she was in, in 1921 -- not her parents? If so, and you know who they were, she's not with them in 1911? The houeshold must have been some other people, I suppose, not knowing how you know who they were.

Nonetheless, it doesn't strike me as a good argument for allowing access to personal info about everyone else in the country a few years or a decade earlier than a 97-year or 100-year rule would allow.

Poolie Girl

Poolie Girl Report 20 Aug 2010 20:43


My FIL's mother was the 'housekeeper'. There were already three children in the house whose mother was in hospital with a chronic illness - she didn't die until 1928 so there could be no further marriage without a divorce, which there wasn't. The elder daughter of the household (now dead) related to her own daughter the BIG argument that preceded the departure and it was after the 1921 census. I have checked electoral registers and know the address but how else can I find out how old FIL's mother was or where she came from to find her birth record. She may have been a young girl or an older woman, perhaps widowed, which would involve yet another (unknown) name.

So, head of house - deceased, his hospitalised wife - deceased. All the children, including my FIL, are all long departed. What now?


TootyFruity Report 20 Aug 2010 21:32

Poolie Girl I understand your dilemma however I agree with Janie personal gain is not an argument for early release of the 1921 census.

Living people are on that census, some in favour and some against its open access release as with the 1911. These peoples wishes should be paramount as it holds information relating to them. Also even though sensitive information will be redacted who is to define this type of information. Women where put in lunatic asylums for being unmarried mothers, this would have a knock on effect for their offspring.

To access this census will take a change in the census law which could effect the release of more recent census. This is a bigger issue than just the release of the 1921 census.

Poolie Girl

Poolie Girl Report 20 Aug 2010 22:18

I think you'll find I simply said I was stuck until 1921 was released. I didn't say when that should be.

As to living people and sensitive information, didn't that apply to 1911 as well? It's even possible there were people still around when the 1901 was released who showed up in the workhouse or with a parent in prison or an asylum.

I won't claim the moral high ground because if it were released I'd be there like a shot, just as I was for the 1911. It would be hypocritical to access data on the one hand while harping on about confidentiality.

Joy Kentish Maid

Joy Kentish Maid Report 20 Aug 2010 22:34

"As to living people and sensitive information, didn't that apply to 1911 as well?" -
sensitive information in the 1911 census has been blocked out and will not be visible until 2012.


TootyFruity Report 20 Aug 2010 22:59

Yes people are still around who are on the 1911 and possibly even the 1901 census and for me they should not have been released until after 100 years. However, once the information is in the public domain there is no going back and does not benefit anyone by ignoring it.

It is quite probable that there are more living people who appear in the 1921 census than in 1911 and 1901. I think that access should be restricted on a par with the 1939 registration


JaneyCanuck Report 21 Aug 2010 00:23

Oh, around and around we go.

1. You will find that people who think the 1921 should not be released before "time" also think the 1911 should not have been. In fact, it was released after, what, 98.5 years? As I think I've said: Big Whup. There *is* a difference between 80 or 90 years and 98 years.

2. Joy, why would you keep saying "sensitive information in the 1911 census has been blocked out" when YOU KNOW that so many of us have said that HOUSEHOLD COMPOSITION INFORMATION (in fact, just what Poolie Girl is looking for) IS SENSITIVE INFORMATION -- as if no one had said it? What are we supposed to do, make the arguments all over again? What is the point?


TootyFruity Report 24 Oct 2010 20:07

I have also posted this on Guy's thread on Chat but thought it may be of interest to the readers of this board who never visit Chat

I have just received a letter from the National Archives regarding the 1921 census which I thought I would copy here as I don't have a scanner.

Thank you for your letter of 31 August 2010 to Mr M Hoben MP, which has been passed to me as Acting Chief Executive of The National Archives. I apologise for the delay in responding which was due to an administrative error at the Ministry of Justice.

There are currently no plans to change the law regarding release of the 1921 census and other later censuses. Government policy, supported by legislation, is that all Censuses from 1921 onwards should be kept closed until 100 years has elapsed.

The Office of National Statistics, the government department responsible for undertaking censuses, supplied me with the following statement:

"Section 39 of the Statistics and Registration Services Act 2007 places an obligation on the Statistics Authority Board not to disclose personal information held by the Board unless one of the exemptions at section 39(4) applies. Failure to comply with this duty of confidentiality would be a criminal offence.

Personal census information from the 1921 Census, and other censuses taken since 1920 is covered by Section 44(1)(a) of the Freedom of Information Act, which states that information is exempt if its disclosure is prohibited by or under any enactment.

The main purpose of a census is to compile statistics about the population. History and non-statistical research is a secondary use of the records and does not jeopardise the main purpose. As you are probably aware, participation is compulsory, but a census would not be successful if the information collected was not kept confidential. We know from experience that many members of the general public are extremely concerned about confidentiality of a census an the uses to which the information is put. In order to balance this with legitimate interests of historians and non-statistical researchers, government policy is to release Census returns through the National Archives under the lawful authority of the Public Records Act once they are 100 years old. This policy has been restated recently by ministers of the House of Commons, and accordingly the Government intends to publish the 1921 Census records in 2022.

Therefore, section 22(1) of the Freedom of Information Act, which exempts information scheduled for future publication, applies in this case.

The 1911 census was released 18 months early online, with the condition that certain personal information within it was withheld from general public access until January 2012. The position of the 1911 Census was slightly different however. The Information Commissioner decided under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 that all but specified information (in one column of the form) should be made available to applicants. The information withheld will be added to the online information in accordance without he 100 year closure period.

With regard to public records, i would say that privacy and the possibility of identity theft are issues we take very seriously when deciding whether such records should be available for public access. We believe that the sensitivity of personal information can vary, depending on the nature of the information, the context in which it appears and the likely effect of disclosure on the individuals concerned. For that reason we do not advocate restriction of all personal information for a fixed period but make judgements based on content in context.

I hope you find this reply helpful

With best wishes

Oliver Morley
Acting Chief Executive
The National Archive.

At least we now know how the land lies.


Kathryn Report 24 Oct 2010 20:48

Very interesting indeed, but it still doesn't clarify the position in terms of having to change the law in order to release the data at all, that is one of Guy's points that appears to have been lost in some quarters. It may well be Govt policy not to release until 100yrs expire, but as the law stands at the moment they won't be able to release at all, even after the 100yrs are up.

Kate x


TootyFruity Report 24 Oct 2010 21:03

From my understanding the census laws do not need changing as legislation is already in place under the Freedom of Information Act as detailed in the response above


Guy Report 25 Oct 2010 07:36

Unfortunately the reply is the standard National Archives/Office of National Statistics response letter.

It is very common for such letters to be sent out as it saves the civil servants having to consider requests.
I would immediately write to the MP concerned and request they address the points I made in my original letter rather than passing the buck.

You may be quite surprised that often the M.P has a completely different view of the subject than that of the standard NA/ONS response.


Renes Report 25 Oct 2010 08:57


How easy it is  to say -

"  Unfortunately the reply is the standard National Archives/Office of National Statistics response letter" 

And thereby dismissing it 

Can we see your copy of this standard response - or some one elses please 

As you appear -  to be stating this as fact - you surely have evidence of it 



TootyFruity Report 25 Oct 2010 13:36


Are you saying that the Acting Chief Executive of the National Archives is not very good at his job?

Are you saying the departments he consulted with do not know their jobs?

Or is it a case of that they do not know the law relating to their departments?


JaneyCanuck Report 25 Oct 2010 17:04

Jesting intent aside, adults with strong opinions about things that are important to them often argue. And don't get sent to bed without supper. Advocating a position and presenting facts and arguments to support it are healthy, positive ways of participating in public life, and the way to deal with disagreements in private life as well. I don't understand why this would seem to need commenting on!


Kathryn Report 25 Oct 2010 18:45

Tooty Fruty, having worked in a govt department I'd say that no 3 on your list is highly likely, frankly. And I also suspect that Guy's right when he says it's a stock reply, it looks and reads very like one ime. Forgive me if you do already know the DWO system (Deal With Officially) - It will have been sent out from the relevant ministers office to the appropriate policy branch, and given the nature of this enquiry, to the accompanying statistics branch too, where they will have compared this correspondance with others on file and selected the most appropriate draft reply. That reply will then have been tweaked as necessary to respond to the specific enquiry, but in most cases will certainly be nothing more than confirming the current position as regards the enquiry. DWO replies tend to avoid making It will then be sent back to the minister's or official's office for signing.

[Personally I'm all for the release of the 1921 census early if that's possible, but I don't feel strongly enough about it to lobby my MP tbh. And I fully accept that sensitive information can mean all sorts of things to various people. As others have said, household membership itself could be sensitive for some, not just disability info]

Kate x


TootyFruity Report 25 Oct 2010 20:10

Thank you for explaining the DWO system.  To be perfectly honest, I have no idea how government departments work.  In fact, I wrote to every MP and received many stock letters explaining Government rules preventing them from acting on my behalf as I am not a resident in their constituency and many cards saying my concerns had been noted.

However, amongst these letters were some with information on how to proceed and many messages of support for my position.

Mr Yeo said that if I had previously lived in his South Suffolk constituency he would be able to act on my behalf.    Alas, I have never lived there.


JaneyCanuck Report 25 Oct 2010 23:03

I also fail to see how understanding the inner workings of departmental correspondence (I understand it very well, on this side of the ocean) has any effect on the truth or accuracy or validity of what is *said* in the letter!


Guy Report 26 Oct 2010 08:13

I have had many copies of similar letters sent to me by individuals who have received them in a similar manner to Tooty Fruity.
The minister forwards the letter to the Office of National Statistics or to the National Archives and they reply to the person who raised the matter by means of a letter such as that.
It is a quick standard response that states the current position.

If this action is then queried by the writer of the original letter the MP then treats the matter as a serious request and normally looks into the matter and often a different response is forthcoming.
Sometimes this response will support the suggestion at other times it will oppose the suggestion depending on the minister's views on the subject.



Cheryl Report 26 Oct 2010 08:47

I already know enough about those that were living in 1921 and where most were living. I got all this info from my parents and in-laws who all remember things their parents told them.
I don't feel that I would benefit from seeing the census and like others have suggested, there are still people living that were born prior to that census. In fact one of my relatives recently celebrated her 90th birthday.

What I suggest that people do for the future generations, is to make a copy of the 2011 census and any subsequent census and file it with your family records. That way your relations don't have to wait so long, but it would be your choice to make it available to them and not the state's.

As the census form is 30 odd pages long, I have also printed a blank 1901 census form , which I can imput info from the 2011 and file away for easy reading. I will just alter the date on the form every 10 years.
I will not be adding my name to the list.

Karen in the desert

Karen in the desert Report 12 Aug 2011 18:17

Bumping up.........