The records of more than 27 million people in England have become available online today at www.1911census.co.uk At 6.30 am this morning the site had already recorded forty thousand hits had so the National Archives is hoping that there won’t be a repeat of the website crash that occurred in 2002 after the launch of the 1901 census. Since the compilers of the site are expecting the highest demand to be three times greater than it was for the 1901 records, they have prepared twenty six servers to cope with the traffic.
The 1911 census was the first for which the population’s completed forms were kept and important information was recorded on them for the first time: the name, age, address, place of birth, marital status and occupation as well as each person’s relationship to the head of the household.
The returns reflect the preoccupations of the time. Mary Howey, an artist and suffragette wrote “Votes for Women” on her return. Another activist refused to fill in her form and then wrote on it : ‘If I am intelligent enough to fill in this paper, I am intelligent enough to put a cross on a voting paper.’
Among the more idiosyncratic entries, a pet cat is listed as a servant (nationality Persian) and one househoulder annotates his form with some information about his human servant: “This woman calls herself ‘about forty’ and refuses to say any more. She looks 60. She leaves my service tomorrow”.
As well as researching their own families, it is expected that some searchers will be looking for some famous people and the ancestors of some current celebrities. Virginia Woolf is listed under her maiden name of Adeline Virginia Stephen, she was then 29 years old and describes herself at this time as a journalist. The records also include details of important historical figures : the future Prime Minister David Lloyd George and the then Prime Minister H.H. Asquith.
Ancestors of celebrities include Amy Winehouse’s great-great grandfather Abraham Grandish, a Russian immigrant living in Spitalfields and David Beckham’s great grandfather John who worked as a scavenger for Walworth Council.
The 1921 census results will be the last to go online for many years and they will not be opened early. It appears that the 1911 results have avoided the legislation which prevents viewing until a hundred years have elapsed.
The 1931 records were destroyed in a fire in 1942 and the census was not taken in 1941 because of the second world war.
Earlier census data is available from the National Archives census page which provides links to their commercial partners’ databases. While it is free to search these sites, you will be charged to view and to download images of individual census entries.
Family Search also known as the International Genealogical Index provides listings of Church records around the world. It is a large database maintained by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day saints. It is useful but not always a reliable source of data.
Anonymised census data for 1981, 1991 and 2001 is available from the Census Dissemination Unit You will need to register for this service and to use your Athens username and password each time you access it.