1911 Census

1911 Census Date – 2 April 1911

The 1911 census, taken on the night of Sunday, 2 April 1911, was unique in a number of ways. It was the first UK census to collect ‘fertility’ data by asking how many children women had given birth to. It was the first UK census to conduct a full census of the British army posted overseas. Finally, the 1911 census introduced a radically overhauled system of data collection.

The 1911 census of England and Wales was released in 2009 – two years’ earlier than its scheduled 100 years’ wait (apart from some sensitive information).  The 1911 Scottish Census was delayed for the full 100 years, due to privacy laws, and was released in April 2011.

Personal Information Collected in the ‘fertility census’ of 1911

The 1911 census introduced a number of new census questions, particularly regarding fertility. As a result, it is often termed the ‘fertility census’. This fertility information is important to family historians as it gives information on children no longer living at home, as well as those who may have died prior to the 1911 census. Here are the new questions asked since the census of 1901:

marriage/fertility questions (married women only)

  • Current marriage: number of years married.
  • Number of children born alive to current marriage with a split between those still living and those who have died.

Profession or occupation

The questions regarding profession or occupation were expanded to include the actual industry or service in which an individual was employed i.e. employer’s business or public body.

Birthplace

Previous censuses simply asked ‘where born’. Now, full details were required:

  • If born in the UK. The county, town or parish.
  • If born in another part of the British Empire. The dependency, colony etc., and province/state.
  • If born in a foreign country (i.e. outside British Empire). The country e.g. ‘France’, ‘Germany’ etc.
  • If born at sea. ‘At Sea’ was to be entered.
  • If born outside England or Wales. State whether resident or visitor.

Nationality (if born in a foreign country)

One of the following answers was to be entered on the schedule for each individual born in a foreign country:

  • ‘British Subject by Parentage’ or;
  • ‘Naturalised British Subject’ (with year of naturalisation) or;
  • If a foreign national, their nationality e.g. ‘French’, ‘German’ etc.

Infirmity

  • ‘Feeble minded’, was added to the list of possible infirmities that were to be disclosed.
  • The age at which an individual was afflicted with an infirmity was also asked.

Number of rooms

In the 1891 census and 1901 census, this question only applied if the number of rooms occupied was less than 5. This question was now extended to all dwellings. The following rooms were excluded: scullery, landing, lobby, closet, bathroom, or commercial rooms (e.g. warehouse, office, shop).

New procedure of data collection

The previous censuses in England, Wales and the Channel Islands involved enumerators collecting householder’s schedules from the head of each household in the UK. The details supplied in these schedules were then copied into enumeration books. This was a laborious procedure and prone to error. The 1911 census introduced a system of collection that had been employed in Ireland since 1841, whereby the householder’s schedules were retained.

The enumeration books were replaced with enumeration summary books (ESB). These ESBs only recorded the head of every household, not every occupant; the names of each occupant was now stored in the retained householder’s schedules. The ESBs are still very important for research as they describe every address (including unoccupied dwellings, commercial properties and churches).

The information supplied by the household schedules was processed in the Census Office using punch cards which could be automatically sorted and counted by machine.

Scotland did not adopt this new system for the 1911 census, so Scotland census records for 1911 do not include individual householder’s schedules.

Population Recorded

The population figures in the UK and rest of the British Empire were as follows:

CountriesPopulation - general reportsIncrease
(or decrease)
since 1901 census
England34,045,29010.50%
Wales2,025,20217.70%
Scotland4,760,9046.50%
Ireland4,390,219-1.50%
Total UK population45,221,6159.10%
Islands of the British Seas148,9151.00%
Rest of Empire375,512,028
Total Population of British Empire420,882,558
Please refer to our Census Records page for more details.

The British Army overseas

The 1911 census was the first UK census to enumerate the British army posted overseas. Before the 1911 census, the British army overseas was subject to only a head count. It can be a source of deep frustration for genealogists when the individuals they are studying disappear from one census to the next simply because they were posted overseas at the time of a census. In such circumstances, it is necessary to consult military records.

Where to search?

There are a number of subscription based companies that hold 1911 census records such as:

FindMyPast.co.uk holds 1911 census records for England, Wales and Scotland:


Ancestry.com holds 1911 census records for the English Census, Scottish Census, Welsh Census, 1911 Isle of Man Census and 1911 Channel Islands Census.

You can also view records free of charge at the National Archives, Kew, Richmond Surrey TW9 4DU.

Local and county record offices, and family history societies, often hold copies (usually in microfiche or microfilm format).

The 1911 Scotland Census can be searched at ScotlandsPeople.

The 1911 Ireland Census can be viewed for free at the National Archives of Ireland website.


For more information about the contents of the 1911 Census listen to this short, but very helpful, 3 minute video by Elaine Collins, a genealogy expert, of FindMyPast which was published online at the time of the release of the 1911 Census.  In it she explains that the individual household forms survived for the first time, meaning a lot more digitised images than previous censuses, and the chance, perhaps, to see the handwriting of one of your ancestors.

The next British Census to be released is the 1921 Census, currently scheduled for January 2022.

Victorian Britain at the time of the 2 April 1911 Census.

Prime Minister

H. H. Asquith. (Full title: Herbert Henry Asquith, 1st Earl of Oxford and Asquith.)

Government of the day

The Liberal Government (1905 – 1915)

Foreign Secretary

Sir Edward Grey. (Full title: Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon.)

Chancellor of the Exchequer

David Lloyd George. (Full title: 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor.)

Sources

The National Archives: RG 27/8 Census of England, Wales and Islands in the British Seas, 1911
1911 Census of England and Wales, Preliminary Report with tables of the population enumerated in England and Wales (Administrative, Registration, and Parliamentary areas) and in Scotland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands, on the 3rd Day of April, 1911 (1911 lxxi (Cd.5705) 479)