The 1911 census for England and Wales is available in full, with the original household pages and summary books available to view. Search for your ancestors amongst more than 36 million records for those who were living in England and Wales on 2 April 1911, and discover a detailed snapshot of their life at the time - their age, occupation, where they lived, who they lived with, their marital status and many more details about their lives and relationships thanks to the addition of several new census questions.
The amount of information listed varies, but the 1911 census records usually include at least the following information about your ancestor:
Also, depending on an individual's circumstances, additional information could include:
On the 1911 census transcriptions, you'll also be able to see any recorded details of children born to women in prison who were aged three or under at the time of the census.
For the first time ever, we've made the infirmity column of the 1911 census available for you to view. See how your ancestors reported your family's Illnesses and conditions and the age at which these began. This can provide a revealing insight into the previously censored health of your family in 1911, as well as your ancestors' views of their relations' well being.
As well as searching for a person, you can also search the 1911 census by address - ideal for tracing your house history or exploring the local history of an area.
By noting how many households there were in a building, and whether the household included servants or boarders or visitors, you can gain insight into the social circumstances of the family.
The 1911 census for England and Wales was taken on the night of Sunday 2 April, 1911. The count included all individual households, plus institutions such as prisons, workhouses, naval vessels and merchant vessels, and it also attempted to make an approximate count of the homeless. The census also includes records for the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Royal Navy ships at sea, and overseas military establishments.
The 1911 census documents
Prior to 1911, the household schedules were destroyed once the details had been transferred into the enumerators' summary books. But for the 1911 census both sets of records have been preserved, which means you can see the census documents filled out in your ancestor's own hand (complete with mistakes and additional comments). The household schedules, plus their transcription, are available to view.
Fertility in marriage and occupational data
In response to government concerns the 1911 census also asked additional, more specific questions to each household, about fertility in marriage and occupational data. At the time there were falling birth rates, large numbers of people emigrating, and the nation was in reportedly poor health across the demographic spectrum. This was coupled with the rise (and fall) of businesses during what were rapidly advancing industrial and technological times, so the government felt it necessary to understand more about the health of the nation, and which industries were in general growth or decline.
The 1911 census and the suffragettes
Frustrated with the government's refusal to grant women the vote, a large number of women boycotted the 1911 census by refusing to be counted. There were two forms of protest. In the first, the women (or their husbands) refused to fill in the form, often recording their protest on the household schedule. In the second, women evaded the census by staying away from their home for the whole night, and so did not lodge their protest on the household schedule. In both cases, any details relating to individual women in the households will be missing from the census. For the family historian, a refusal to fill in the form (accompanied by a protest statement) at least registers the presence of a woman, or women, in the household. But the women who evaded the count by leaving their home for the night are entirely untraceable via the census. The exact number of women who boycotted the census is not known, though some people have estimated that it may be as many as several thousand.
The collection of household schedules is complete, although around five per cent sustained water damage many years ago. All records have been scanned and transcribed, though inevitably the water-damaged documents are of poorer quality. A small portion of the enumerators’ summary books are missing from the archives and therefore will never be available to view online.
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Census returns don't only help us determine who our ancestors were, they can also help to open new lines of enquiry as to details of their own lives and those around them, by giving us all or some of the following information:
Where your ancestors were living
Who they were living with
What their occupations were
If they had any servants
Who their neighbours were
If they had any brothers and sisters
What their ages were at the time of the census
If they had any disabilities.
As well as giving us the above information, the fact that census returns are taken every ten years also allows us to track the movements of our ancestors through time as they perhaps move house, get married, have children or even change occupations.
When you view a transcript, you will see that a long sequence of letters and numbers appears underneath the name. This is the Census Reference and is, in effect, a very complicated page number that identifies the location of the paper record at The National Archives.
Before the records were digitised, this number was the only way of finding the original paper document within the millions that are stored in the repositories at The National Archives. For the purposes of searching on the internet, this reference is no longer necessary. But it should still be cited when you compile your family tree, and in case you want to compare records with someone else, and be sure that you have the same person and household.
Key to references
RG78 RG refers to the series of records that were the responsibility of the Registrar General (which also covers births, marriages and deaths), and 78 is the code given to the enumerators’ summary books. RG14 14 is the number that identifies the records as household schedules PN Stands for Piece Number, which is an individual volume of records RD Is the Registration District SD Is the Registration Sub District ED Is the Enumeration District SN Is the Schedule Number within the Household Schedules (RG14)
There are many reasons why it may be difficult for you to find your ancestor, but some of the known issues with the census, and some difficulties in tracing relatives are detailed below, with tips on how to find out more where applicable:
Transcription errors and omissions
Because the documents transcribed were handwritten by each individual head of household there is a wide variety in the quality and condition of the writing. There are inevitably some errors in the transcription of the census, which result in spelling errors, although the 1911 census has exceeded the accuracy target of 98.5 per cent.
Missing and damaged volumes
All of the original household pages have survived, but some of the Enumerators’ Summary books (RG78s) are missing from the archives. This means that they will never be available online, and the original household page will be the only page that you receive when you pay for an image. It also means that in a small number of cases you will not be able to locate a household through the ‘place of residence’ field by using certain names such as the civil parish, as these were transcribed from the enumerators' summary books to power the search function. You should still be able to locate the original household page through the other search fields. View a list of the affected counties and registration sub-districts.
The census sustained water damage many years ago, before the documents were transferred to The National Archives. This has made the text on a very small number of household pages illegible and we have been unable to transcribe them. In other cases, you will be able to find the original household page, but the document will inevitably be of poorer quality.
It is possible that the householder spelled a name incorrectly on the household form, especially if the person you are looking for was not a member of the family, such as a lodger or servant. Or it could be the spelling you have obtained from another source is wrong. Diminutives, nicknames and name changes
It was not uncommon for people to be known by a diminutive name or nickname entirely different to that filled in on the form. So, for example, your great-great grandmother, who everyone knew as Polly, might actually have been christened and named on the census as Mary; and your great uncle Jack's birth name might have been John. Also, it was common for immigrants to anglicise their names, so the Polish writer Teodor Josef Konrad Korzeniowski, is listed on the 1911 census as Joseph Conrad.Other people who changed their names included bigamists and others who wished to avoid being traced by the authorities. If you are not sure of the spelling of a name, make sure you tick the ‘include variants’ tickbox.
Only the age was required on the census; the year of birth that is listed in the transcript has been calculated from the age that was given, so could be a year out. It was very common for people to lie about their age on the census, so even if you have other official documentation that states their age, you should bear in mind that this may not agree with the census form.
By far the biggest cause of people missing from the 1911 census was civil disobedience.
As part of the protest against the government’s continued refusal to grant women the vote, the suffragettes organised a mass boycott of the census. Exact numbers will never be known, but it is estimated that thousands of women may be missing from the 1911 census. Many women made sure that they stayed away from the family home all night, and were not listed on the census at all. In such cases, they will simply be untraceable via the census. In other cases either the woman or her husband (if he was head of the household) refused to list the female household members on the form. Sometimes, the presence of females in the house is indicated by a statement notifying the enumerator of their refusal to complete the census, or by a protest slogan on the form; but the number of females and their personal details were not recorded. Other people may simply not have been at home, or may have been hiding for other reasons and will not be included in the enumerator's records.
People at other addresses
A census is taken at an address, not specifically of a family or household. If individuals were visiting friends or relatives that evening, they may, however, be included in the census at that particular address. Many people, particularly young, unmarried women, were in service and may be found at the residence of their employers. Others, such as sailors, may have been on board ship, and will be listed under the ship’s name. Medical staff in hospitals, wardens in prisons, and night-workers in factories would be recorded at their work rather than home address.
Asylums, prisons and similar institutions
Patients or inmates held in institutions such as asylums and prisons were often enumerated solely by the first letters of their first and last names. For example, ‘John Smith’ would be recorded as 'J.S.'. Unfortunately, this makes finding these ancestors on the census practically impossible.
The records for the military establishments overseas cover around 135,000 soldiers based at 288 bases, while the naval records include around 36,000 naval personnel on 147 Royal Navy Ships overseas.
As with other searches, you should start by entering only a small amount of information (i.e. first name, last name, and year of birth), then, if needed, add more information to narrow down the results. If you are sure that your ancestor was stationed overseas you can select either ‘Overseas Military’ or ‘Overseas Royal Navy’ in the drop-down menu to limit the search. When searching for military personnel you should avoid entering details for other members of the household, as they were recorded separately fromfamily members who were on the base. There were two kinds of returns: one for ‘Commissioned Officers, Warrant Officers, non-Commissioned Officers, Trumpeters, Drummers and Rank and File’; and one for ‘Wives and Children of Officers and Soldiers’. You will therefore need to do separate searches in order to locate different family members on the same base. If you know the name of the ship or overseas military establishment that your ancestor served on, you can narrow down the results by entering:
The name of the ship without the prefix (for example HMS, RMS), in the ‘Keywords’ or ‘place of residence’ fields
The name of the military establishment in the ‘Keywords’ or ‘Residential place’ fields.
However, when entering the name of a military establishment you will need to bear in mind the following:
The base may not be listed in the way you expect. For example, it may be listed by the name of the base, then the town and then the country; or in instances where the base was the only settlement in the area, it may be listed by town only. In yet other instances, the name of a rocky outpost or small island may have been used.
The name of the establishment and its address may be written on the schedule in an abbreviated form.
Personnel on leave
Soldiers not on base on the night of 2 April, were listed on the census schedule and marked ‘absent’. If they were on leave in the British Isles, the census form should also state whether they were in England, Wales, Scotland, or Ireland. You won’t find naval crew listed on the ship’s census return if they were on shore leave on the night of the census, since the schedule lists only those on board.
The source of the address details on the 1911 census is the original form filled in by the householder, and several factors conspire to make finding an address (from the information provided in the historical document) difficult:
In 1911, the concept of a full postal address with a number and street was less evolved than it is today. Many people listed their address as a house name followed by a town (rather than a house number and street name) and this was the information that was transcribed.
Only a small space was left on the original form for the address, and the householder would often further abbreviate the address to make it fit. Many householders also used abbreviations for phrases (as we do today), such as ‘Rd’ for ‘Road’.
Place names and spellings may have changed over time. For example Pixham Lane in Dorking was also entered by householders as Pixholme in a number of instances.
If you don’t find the desired address first time, you could try the following:
Check old maps online and other sources to discover whether names have changed, or have more than one spelling.
Search for common alternative spellings, such as ‘ham’ for ‘holme’ and vice versa; for example Pixham and Pixholme
Search for ‘St’ as well as ‘Street’, ‘Road’ and ‘Rd’, ‘Avenue’ and ‘Ave’, and ‘Ln’ in addition to ‘Lane’, etc, or miss these Suffixes off entirely. For example, Wessenden instead of Wessenden Road.
A numeric code was hand-written by the enumerator next to each occupation entry on a household form. This code identifies the nature of the occupation. If the occupation on an ancestor’s form is hard to read, you should be able to determine it using our key to the 1911 census occupation codes.