The surviving Census records for England and Wales from 1921 onwards are kept by the Office for National Statistics. The Census Act of 1920 means that there are strict rules that the contents of these censuses cannot be released for 100 years. The government has made it clear that the 1921 Census for England, Wales and Scotland will be released in its entirety in 2022.
The 1921 Census UK was taken on the night of Sunday 19 June 1921. There had been a delay of 2 months in the taking of this census due to the Black Friday Strike by coal miners. This is the only time a census has been delayed.
The 1911 Census was released in 2009 – some 3 years early and there have been a number of petitions to government requesting the early release of the 1921 Census. Most of these petitions argue that census records can be released after 70 years. One petition in 2007 gained 23,600 signatures but the government rejected the petition. They restated their position that the privacy of the original partakers must be respected, and that the Census Act of 1920 and its provisions must be adhered to i.e. the information cannot be released for 100 years.
The National Archives website makes mention of the 1921 Census in an interesting letter they published. It concerns the fire on 19 December 1942 which tragically destroyed the entire 1931 census. The writer W A Derrick of the General Register Office, realises the added importance of the safekeeping of the 1921 Census and his concern isn’t helped by the fact that some parts of the 1921 Census had suffered water damage. Here is an excerpt of Mr Derrick’s letter:
‘Will you also let us know where the enumeration books and plans of division relating to the 1921 census are stored. The schedules, as you are aware, were damaged by water at Leonard Street and have since been dried out and are scattered over various parts of Somerset House; but no plans or enumeration books were brought from Leonard Street and it is assumed that they were stored elsewhere. Steps will have to be taken shortly for the racking and storing of the 1921 schedules for which purpose the volumes will have to be sorted to the order of the area numbers stencilled on the backs have you a record of the volumes from which the completeness of the series can be verified?’
The full text of Mr Derrick’s letter can be found on the National Archives website. Here is the link
Update on the 1921 Census
On 12th January 2018 the National Archives put the 1921 Census out to tender, seeking expressions of interest to digitise, transcribe and publish the 1921 Census of England and Wales. The closing date to apply is 8th February 2018 and the contract will run from 31 May 2018 until 30 May 2028. The 1921 Census Records tender information supplied on the gov.uk website is quite basic, but makes clear that the chosen party will have to demonstrate experience in running similar large scale digitisation projects.