Using the 1921 Census for Family and Local History

The 1921 Census of England and Wales has recently been released exclusively on the FindMyPast websiteAffiliate. Individual records from the census are always locked away for 100 years, so this is the first time that the 1921 Census has been digitised, transcribed, and shared with local and family historians.

How to Access the 1921 Census

Since the genealogy website FindMyPast was responsible for digitising and transcribing the records, the 1921 Census will only be available through their website for the next three years. If you want to see the 1921 Census online then you will need to sign up for a FindMyPast account and set up a payment method.

Common Questions About the 1921 Census

Where Can I Access the 1921 Census?

The 1921 Census is only available online through FindMyPast. You will need to pay for every record or image that you view as the 1921 census isn’t included in any subscriptions.

How Much Does the 1921 Census Cost?

You will need to pay £2.50 for every transcription that you view and £3.50 to see an image of the original document. If you have a 12-month Pro subscription to FindMyPast then you will receive a 10% discount on these prices.

Can I See the 1921 Census for Free?

You can view the transcripts and digital images of the 1921 Census for free if you visit the National Archives, the National Library of Wales, or the Manchester Central Library. If you access FindMyPast from a computer at one of these locations then you will be able to see the 1921 Census free of charge.

When Will the 1921 Census be Available Elsewhere?

FindMyPast has exclusive rights to the 1921 Census for the next three years because they were responsible for the transcription and digitisation process. As with past census releases, the records should then become available through other sites and as part of subscription packages.

Why Use the 1921 Census for Family History?

Finding your ancestor on the most recent census can often be the first step towards tracing them back through the preceding century or more. Once you have one census entry for your relative, it is often possible to identify their parents and/or siblings, find out their birthplace and date, and to use this information to trace your family back to the previous census. Since census records for England and Wales are now available for every decade between 1841 and 1921, these stepping stones can take you back a long way into your family history. The 1921 Census is one of the most recent sources for the UK (along with the 1939 Register), which can make it a great starting point for family history research.


The 1921 Census for Local History

Census records are often used for genealogy, but they can also be useful for getting more information about individuals, neighbourhoods, or wider areas when you are researching local history. You can find out what occupations were common on a specific street or how often people moved from rural birthplaces into the major cities. One factor that makes the 1921 census particularly useful for local history research is that you can search by address, which makes it much easier to trace your house history or find institutions, businesses, and other locations you are researching.


Tips On Searching the 1921 Census

The 1921 Census contains more information than any previously released census, which gives you more opportunities to narrow down your search with details about the person you’re looking for. With older censuses, it is possible to check every result to see which is the correct entry or to browse through all the pages for a street or institution, but the costs would soon add up if you did this with the 1921 Census. Since you will be paying for every page that you view, it is important to use all the options that are available to choose which records you want to see.

  • Start with a broad search, such as a name and location – the less information you enter, the fewer chances there will be to cut the entry you need out of the results because of missing information, mistranscriptions, or details that were different than expected. You don’t want to exclude your relative from the results because they were doing a different job at that time. A broad search can often locate the right record for people with unusual names or if you know which town or village your relatives were living in, especially once you take the ages and birthplaces that are listed in the search results into account. You might get 13 records for Sarah Price in Shrewsbury, but if you’re looking for the one who was born in about 1904 then you’ll be able to choose the right one.
  • If you get too many possible results with a broad search, use the options to narrow them down. Click the Advanced Options button to see all the choices and try narrowing the results down by sex and marital status first as these are most likely to be recorded and transcribed accurately. If this still isn’t enough, try looking for other details such as occupation or age, but be aware that these aren’t always recorded accurately or in a standard way and there can be mispellings or mistranscriptions.
  • Look at family relationships to learn more about your relatives or to narrow down the results further. The 1921 Census contains more information about marital status (including divorce) and orphanhood status than previous records. You can see whether one of both parents of a child were living, which can help you to understand what your ancestor’s lives were like at the time.
  • Check who else was living in the same household by using the Advanced Options to ensure you have the correct entry before paying to see the transcript or image. Move the details of the person you were searching for into the other household member section and use the parish or other location details to narrow down the results to the correct place. If you recognise the parents or siblings who are listed, then you can be certain you’ve found the right entry.
  • Try searching by address instead of looking for an individual – this is ideal for house history, but it can also be helpful for tracing family histories. You might find your relatives at the same address as in the 1911 Census or 1939 Register, even if there was an issue such as a misspelt surname that made it difficult to search for them by name.
  • Use * as a wildcard to replace one or more letters in the terms you’re searching for – this can reveal records where names were spelt differently or occupations that were recorded in a different way. For example, searching for Pr*ce will reveal records for both Price and Pryce. If you’re looking for misspelt names then you can also tick the box to include name variants in order to pick these up.
  • Remember to access the additional information that comes with your record – look for the Extra(Address) button when viewing images of the census. When you pay for an image from the 1921 Census, you will also gain access to the Address page for that entry, the Cover of the census, Plans of the Division detailing the area covered, and a Map of the area. These can be particularly useful for local history as they include notes on which streets are included in the Enumeration District and other details about the area.