Census Special Newsletter - 16 June 2010




Two chances to access the 1911 Census FREE

Top census search tips

What DID happen to the 1931 Census?

Is the 1921 Census in good condition?

When will the 1911 Scotland census be released?

Irish censuses

Make the most of the 1911 England & Wales census

1966 and all that

Which censuses does LostCousins use?

Looking forward to 2011

Peter's tips


About this newsletter

The LostCousins newsletter is published twice a month on average, and all LostCousins members are notified by email when a new edition is available (unless they opt out). To access the previous newsletter (dated 7 June 2010) please click here. Each newsletter links to the one before, and you can go back to February 2009 when the newsletter first went online; in due course there will be an online index to articles.


Whenever possible links are included to the websites mentioned in the newsletter (they are highlighted in blue or purple and underlined, so you can't miss them). Note: when you click on a link a new browser window or tab will open so that you don’t lose your place in the newsletter.


Although the newsletters are hosted at LostCousins, they are not part of the main website. Click here to go to the main website and search for your living relatives.


Two chances to access the 1911 Census FREE

Last Friday there was a surprise announcement from findmypast - they were going to allow free access to the 1911 Census and almost all of their other records during England's World Cup soccer matches, starting with last Saturday's game against the USA. What a great idea!


However, it turned out that there were so many people who decided to forgo the football that the findmypast site slowed down considerably - and whilst I know that many members did manage to download the information they wanted, there were others who had trouble logging-in at all.


I'm delighted to say that they've come up with a far better arrangement for the next match on Friday, one that not only means that we won't all be trying to use the site at the same time, but also allows overseas users to have a good night's sleep (last time members in Australia and New Zealand had to set their alarm clocks really early). Best of all, you can watch the football as well!


For the latest information check the special page I've created here, where you'll also find out how to get a discounted findmypast subscription and a free LostCousins subscription - if you're quick!




Top census search tips

You'll find lots of census searching tips on the first page of my article Key Tips for Census Success, and some that are specific to the 1911 Census in Mastering the 1911 England & Wales census - both of which you'll find on the Help & Advice page. But here are my top 3 tips for census searches:


1.       Use wildcards liberally to overcome spelling and transcription errors, remembering that some letters (such as 'o' and 'e', 'n' and 'v' are more easily confused than others, and that the more unusual the name, the more likely it is to appear incorrectly.

2.       Enter the minimum of information - filling in more boxes won't get you better results, it will give you worse results. If you don't find the entry you're looking for, don't add more information - take some away!

3.       Remember that it's not just the enumerator and the transcriber who make mistakes: it's clear from the 1911 Census that many householders got things wrong, whether it was the spelling of their wife's name or their own birthplace.


Every website uses different search algorithms, so a technique you've honed at one website probably won't work as well at another. Make use of the unique features that each website offers, such as searching using only forenames at Ancestry, or searching by address or occupation at findmypast.


What DID happen to the 1931 Census?

When I heard that the 1931 England & Wales census had been totally destroyed during the Second World War, I naturally assumed that it was the result of enemy action. However, it seems that wasn't the case…


The census schedules, enumeration books, and other documents relating to the 1931 Census were kept in an Office of Works furniture store in Hayes, Middlesex. On the evening of Saturday 19th December 1942 the store was gutted by fire, the cause of which was never identified. In the words of a GRO official:


" It is hardly possible to imagine a more complete state of devastation than the scene presented to us in which it was impossible to see where some of the racks had stood and where the remains were nothing more than shapeless mounds of paper rubbish dragged outside the building by the firemen who tackled the fire and where even the least damaged sheets that were recognizable were charred to the depth of two or three inches on all edges."


Since there were special fire hydrants in the store, and there was a guard of 6 fire watchers, it seems incredible that the fire could have developed to such disastrous proportions. I don't know whether there was an enquiry at the time, but I wonder whether it may have been significant that it was not only a Saturday night, but also the last Saturday before Christmas? Was there some sort of Christmas celebration going on behind the blackout curtains?


I don't know how much it cost to collect the 1931 Census data, but the 2011 Census was forecast to cost £482 million, a substantial sum; furthermore, many of the young men and women who lost their lives in World War 2 were born after 1921, and so were only ever recorded on the 1931 Census. Wouldn't it be tragic if it had all been destroyed by a lit cigarette carelessly discarded by a reveller?


Is the 1921 Census in good condition?

The quote in my last article was taken from a letter in the National Archives, which is reproduced in the Your Archives section of the site - click here to read the whole letter.


In that letter reference is also made to the schedules for the 1921 Census having been damaged by water - and it sounds a lot more serious than the water damage that affected about 5% of the 1911 schedules. I realise that we can't expect to see the census until 2022, but it would be nice to know that it is going to be worth waiting for!


When will the 1911 Scotland census be released?

Early release of the England & Wales census was prompted by an application under the Freedom of Information Act, but that isn't going to happen with the Scottish census. However, the indications are that we won't have to wait until January 2012, as was originally planned in England & Wales, but may get access to the Scotland 1911 census on 4th  April 2011.


The bad news is that the householder schedules for the 1911 Scotland census have not survived, so you won't see your ancestors' handwriting.


Irish censuses

All of the Irish censuses before 1901 were destroyed, so the 1901 Census - which became available online for the first time earlier this month - is the earliest to have survived. The 1911 Census is also online, and you can use it to search for 'lost cousins' - see this article for full details.


There was no census in Ireland in 1921 because of the troubles, but there was a census in 1926. The next full census in Northern Ireland wasn't until 1951, but there was a less-detailed census in 1937, and in southern Ireland there were censuses in 1936 and 1946.


Griffith's Valuation, a property valuation carried out in Ireland between 1848-64 is often used as a census substitute; you can search it free at the Ask About Ireland website. Some other census substitutes are listed here.


Make the most of the 1911 England & Wales census

It's absolutely fascinating to see the original census schedules in our ancestors' handwriting, but that's not all that's different about the 1911 Census. For the first time there's information about the length of time that women had been married, and how many children they had borne during the marriage, and there's more detail than before about people's jobs.


Because the images we see on our screen were digitised directly from the census schedules they are crystal clear - and in colour, which makes it easier to distinguish who wrote what. However, because the pages weren't microfilmed as in previous years, there are no census references shown as part of the image (other than the schedule numbers which appear in the top right corner). It's important therefore to make a note of the census references, or to include them in the filename when you save the image.


You'll find this advice and many other useful tips in a compilation of my previous articles about the 1911 Census, Mastering the 1911 Census of England & Wales, which you'll find on the Help & Advice page. It also explains how you can use the free Irfanview program to make the whole process easier and quicker, which can only be a good thing.


There are other sources of information too, for example findmypast has brilliant guides to Welsh forenames and Occupations that might help you when you're searching other Welsh records, too. There's also a list of the Occupation Codes and Birthplace Codes that will help if you're struggling to read the handwriting - these were written in by the enumerator after he collected the form.


For many researchers the great thing about the 1911 Census is that it almost totally bridges the gap between the 1901 Census and the date when the mother's maiden name was first listed in the indexes of births (1st July 1911).


1966 and all that

For many Englishmen the date 1966 means only one thing - the year that England won the football World Cup. I certainly remember it well, having been lucky enough to attend England's quarter-final game against Argentina, a match that's memorable for two reasons: the walk-out by the Argentines after their captain was sent off, and the enormous roar that went up at half-time, when the announcer gave the score in the game between North Korea and Portugal (North Korea were 3-0 up, although they eventually lost 3-5).


However, LostCousins member Christopher remembered that 1966 was also the year in which a mid-term census was carried out in England &Wales, using a 10% sample of household (his parents' household was one of those selected). But a further mid-term census in 1976 was cancelled, and I don't think there has been another one since.


Which censuses does LostCousins use?

LostCousins now supports 7 censuses, covering most of the English-speaking world:


England & Wales 1841, 1881, 1911

Scotland 1881

Ireland 1911

Canada 1881

US 1880


When you add relatives to your My Ancestors page please make sure you select the correct census from the dropdown menu, as the form changes according to the census.


The census for which we have the greatest coverage is the England & Wales 1881 census, mainly because it was the one we started with (though the fact that it's available free online is another important factor). I'd therefore encourage you to enter as many as possible of your relatives from 1881, especially the brothers, sisters, and cousins who had families of their own at the time of the census - because they are the ones most likely to link you to your living relatives.


However, every entry on your My Ancestors page is a potential link to your 'lost cousins', whichever of the 7 censuses it is taken from.


Looking forward to 2011

Thanks for the feedback following my suggestion that in 2011 we should keep copies of the information on our census forms - it turned out that some farsighted members had already done this for previous censuses.


Unfortunately there's a danger that paper documents can be mislaid or inadvertently destroyed - and this approach also tends to restrict the information to the immediate family (just think how frustrating it would be for us if the only people we could look up on the 1911 Census were our direct ancestors).


But what if the information was stored in a secure online database, and would only be released at a predetermined date that you chose - perhaps 50, 60, or 70 years hence? Why should it always have to wait 100 years - after all, the US 1940 Census will be published in 2012, only 72 years after the data was collected.


Of course, it's important for the integrity of the data that people filling in census forms don't have any concerns about who might see their entries - but a fixed 100 year embargo is inevitably too short for some, and too long for others.


Peter's tips

I'm sure you know by now that the LostCousins system doesn't work as well as it should if you enter your spouse's relatives on your own My Ancestors page, which means that you need an account each. But what you may not know is that it's possible to be logged-in to two LostCousins accounts on the same computer at the same time - provided you have more than one browser.


For several years now I've used the free Firefox browser, which in my opinion is far better and easier to use than Internet Explorer. This means I can be simultaneously logged-in to my account in Firefox, and to my wife's account in Internet Explorer (or vice versa).


Having Firefox on your computer can be useful when you're visiting other sites, too. As you probably know, many sites leave 'cookies' on your computer which let them know that you've visited before - but sometimes it's nice to know what someone visiting the site for the first time would see. Having Firefox on your computer allows you to do that, because it allows you to delete individual 'cookies' very easily.




Peter Calver

Founder, LostCousins


Copyright 2010 by Peter Calver & Lost Cousins Ltd except as otherwise stated