News / The People’s advice on how to prepare for the 1911 census

The People’s advice on how to prepare for the 1911 census

In the lead up to the 2011 census on Sunday 27 March, we’ve been looking at The People newspaper from Sunday 2 April 1911 – the day that the 1911 census was taken.

In an article named ‘Numbering Nobs’, the paper informs readers about the different census questions, the problems they could pose and offers tips on completing the form.

Directed at the head of the household, the article stresses the importance of filling in all the questions: ‘any evasion is treated with the severest penalties’. Slightly menacingly, the paper goes on to state that, ‘No one, however great or however insignificant, can escape the census’.

On the issue of how to approach potentially sensitive questions when filling in the census, the article uses the example of a cook who is separated from her husband. The head of the household is advised to ‘postpone his questions till after dinner – otherwise the dinner may be spoiled.’

Here you can see a 1911 census return which suggests that the head of this household didn’t read The People’s advice on how to fill in the form:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

The article also mentions the suffragettes, saying ‘the avowed determination of the suffragists to withhold all information about themselves is likely to lead to considerable friction in some quarters.’ It goes on to say that ‘the more hardy’ protesters would probably spend the night in Trafalgar Square. We know all about one famous suffragette’s whereabouts on census night – Emily Davison spent the night hiding in the House of Commons.

It’s fascinating to read about how the nation prepared for the 1911 census. Perhaps in another 100 years, future generations will be doing the same with the 2011 census.