1921 Census UK: how people from Sheffield can learn about their family history as new documents published

Life in England and Wales 100 years ago was very different - and the newly published 1921 Census shows just how different it was.

Thursday, 6th January 2022, 8:49 pm

The UK National Archives has now published the record of what life was like a century ago, after a three-year-long journey to conserve and digitise more than 30,000 bound volumes of original documents.

38 million people living in England and Wales took part in the census on June 19, 1921 and the details are now available to view online and in person.

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Findmypast and The National Archives today publish the highly anticipated 1921 Census of England and Wales online, as the 100-year rule, which ensures records are closed to the public for 100 years, has ended. Photo by Mikael Buck / Find My Past / The National Archives

From uncovering interesting family history to finding out the details of famous names like Captain Sir Tom and Sherlock Holmes, there is plenty of useful information to be found.

But how can you access the information and what will it show? Here is everything you need to know.

What does the 1921 Census show?

The 1921 Census offers viewers a glimpse into life 100 years ago in England and Wales.

Emily Briffet, a Findmypast conservation technician holds the 1921 Census return for Thomas Moore, better known as Sir Captain Tom, who famously walked 100 laps of his garden during the pandemic and raised £33m for NHS charities. At the time the Census was taken Tom was 1 years old and living in Keighley. The 1921 Census of England and Wales is available online now (from 6th January), only on Findmypast and reveals a vivid picture of the population as it was 100 years ago. Photo by Mikael Buck / Find My Past / The National Archives.

Speaking to PA, historian and broadcaster professor David Olusoga said: “I think it shows a snapshot of a country in absolute trauma, a country in the midst of trying to recover from what was the biggest rupture in its history.”

Among those whose Census return underlined the hardship suffered by the working classes was James Bartley, a father of three young children from Sussex, who wrote: “Stop talking about your homes for heroes and start building some houses and let them at a rent a working man can afford to pay.”

Audrey Collins, historian at the National Archives, said: “We can actually see at first-hand peoples’ quite heartfelt comments. You don’t protest about something if you’re just a little bit irritated; these are real cries from the heart.”

She added: “Undoubtedly, things were very, very grim for an awful lot of people in the 1920s.

“There were an awful lot of people out of work, and that didn’t really get better over the coming decade.

“So I think 1921 is very much a good survey of what the population was settling down to after the rigours of the First World War, but also it was the shape of things to come in the 1920s.”

The 1921 Census is more detailed than any previously undertaken, having asked people about their place of work, employer and industry for the first time, meaning high street names such as Sainsbury’s, Rolls-Royce and Selfridges appear on its pages.

How can I see the 1921 Census?

If you want to take a look at the 1921 Census, you can do so via the Find My Past website.

You’ll need to sign up to the site to get access – signing up is free, but there is a small fee to view the Census.

Find My Past states: “It costs £2.50 for every record transcript and £3.50 for every original record image.

“This will cover the cost of digitising and transcribing the 18,235,242 images created from the records supplied exclusively to us by the National Archives.

“It means these precious records are accessible, commitment-free, for everyone.”

You can also view the digital images of the 1921 Census of England and Wales for free on the premises at the National Archives at Kew, the Manchester Central Library and the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth.

How do I search on the 1921 Census?

Once logged into your Find My Past account, you’ll be able to search the 1921 Census to find whatever you are looking for – whether it is old family records, details of a famous person or information on a business.

After clicking the ‘search’ option at the top of the page, select the option for the 1921 Census.

Using the 1921 Census search form, you can search in a variety of ways, including using names, birth years, locations, addresses and even employers. The search results will show you a list of all the people who have matched your search criteria.