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

22 March, 2011

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.

  • Rosemary Seam

    Brilliant, my Mother was born in Norwich, just a few hours old when the 1911 Census was taken, Synagog Street no longer exists after bombing in WW2, I downloaded all the info from your website, a treasuretrove of lost family history…

  • Lesley Cluff

    I could not find my grandmother for a long time and many tries in the 1911 census. Quite frustrated I switched to my grandfather and his older brother, assuming both would be away at school. My grandfather was, but his older brother was at home, with their widowed mom. For reasons I may never know, a woman known all her life as Mary Elizabeth has chosen to list herself as Marie. That was not my only surprise. Tears welled up as I realized that a woman who I was told was essentially a ‘rich bitch used to being waited on’ by her oldest two granddaughters, was actually a struggling single mom, widow, working as a store clerk, with two boarders to support her two sons. Thank you FMP!!! It provided answers to several more people stories in my various branches as well.

  • Anne Doran

    I could find no trace of my father( born in 1909) in the 1911 census nor could I find his parents (my grandparents).I did however find my dad’s brother and sister who at the time were with their maternal grand parents who lived next door. One possible reason – my dad may have been in hospital.Were hospitals/workhouses included in the census and how would I access such information ?

  • Nick Martin

    Anne Doran, hospitals/workhouses were included in the census on a separate sheet covering the institution. You may find that people listed in these places may only be identified by the initial letter of their christian name, and not their full name. Best to do an address search for the institution, rather than a name search.

  • http://Findmypass2011census Mavis Wiltshire

    I am trying to find my husband’s mother and her mother as well. I have found the father and two of the children but the mother and one child is still missing. Can you offer any advice. In the Sussex census. Can I yet do a street search. In the past I have found people by looking at all the street census details. After all they are transcribed by someone and if they cannot read the outline the wrong person is put on the transcription. I have found many people with the surname ‘ditto’ !!! I have found some of my own ancestors doing this.

    • Lesley Sheffield

      How old is the missing child? I found that one of my ancestors had very recently had a baby at the time of the cenus and she had gone home to her parents (possibly for the duration of her confinement?). She and her newborn were recorded under her maiden name at her parent’s address ..they must have forgotten to add her under her married surname.

  • brian cottington

    Hi When will the 1911 cencusbe available the same as all the previous cencus ie free to view

  • Bryan Roberts

    If the same applies to the 1911 census as to earlier ones then the 1911 census should become available on 1 January 2012


    its most exciting the full census. being out ,and have always been of mind that this 100 rule is so wrong , and in this age , very soon it will not be necessary to have census, hidden as there are so many families with one two three or four fathers all in the same house hold there will be no need , for hidden secrets . nothing is hidden today in this modern age , and so many house holds with no marriage in place . who will care ??. what family they come from . this is my feeling of the future , and those of us who are amatures and been searching for 20 years for family ,and this rule of 100 yrs. is so maddening . but i again say i will look keenly at the new 1911 census

  • http://none Beryl Wagstaff

    I found my grandmother (25) naming herself Head of the family, and my mother (eighteen monts) on the 1901 Census. But where was my grandfather? He turned up on your Boar War records! And we’d thought him a bit of a philanderer…

  • http://tryingtofindmydad samantha

    my dad was born in 1952 all i no about my dad is that he has been in hospital and he has now got a flat of his own somewhere in yorkshire i really wont to find my dad as he had got two gran son’s one aged 2 and the other one aged 4 both boy’s i wont to find out why he left me and stoped coming to see me everytime my dad rang and said he was coming but did not tern up i use to sit near the frount door waiting for my dad to come and see me and when he did not come i use to stay on that step till bed time then i use to cry my self to sleep i was only 12 at the time but it had buggered my head up for life as sometimes makes me think was it my folt my dad left me and stoped coming to see me x

  • Laele Pepper

    Your 1911 census was helpful in finding my father-in-law as a baby ( 2 months old),and his mother and siblings. Her name did not get a response but the baby and his 2 Y.O brother were listed and lead me to the mother, who was working as a live-in housekeeper.Her husband was no-where listed in the 1911 census but I found a death registered six months earlier, probably him, in another part of the county. Ongoing mystery starts to be solved. The research has taken me 8 years but improvements to your records has opened more and more information to me, researching from Australia. I have also found a number of errors and have notified them to findmypast. Thanks for your good work.

  • Eileen Dickinson

    The 1911 census proved just as difficult to search as the previous ones. After much searching and inventive thinking, I finally discovered my father and his parents entered under the surname of ‘Little’, when the head of the household ie my grandfather, has in clear and perfectly legible handwriting, filled in the form using his correct surname of ‘Tittle’. As always it is never the information that is missing, just the transcribing that is questionable!

  • graham vidler

    Very nice to find my mum and dad for the first time on a census.

  • david


  • Graeme Stewart

    Very interesting.

    This is my 1st attempt today as are running a freebie access to the 1911 Census this w/e.
    — I’m 55, I have original B,D & M registrar certificates listing the full names of my Grand-parents and places where they were when my Parents were born. I also have a velum parchment document issued by the Inland Revenue from the late 1800’s/(turn of the century) for my G’Father who it seems was officially an itinerant tax-collector. He has many locations, moving according to this parchment, each year, of not some times per year. But my parents were civil servants, both employed by the Ministry of War, — later the MoD.

    I could not find for my G’Father, in the 1911 census, under the expected full name, any mention except under different employment, ie “military”. This would be for people in the right place, at roughly the correct time frame.
    There were only three possible listings results and two were under a heading of ‘military’, the 3rd, under a title of ‘insurance salesman’.

    So, were some Civil Servant types listed under different employments or vice-versa for National-Security? Bear in mind we were running up to ‘The Great-War’ at this very time of 1911.
    — Was my G’Father actually in the Military but given a stamp for the IR? That’s a bit of a stretch don’t you think, but right now, I have to be forensically very open-minded to all reasonable possibilities, as finding data/info is evidently going to be at least as difficult as sufficient to put me off starting this research, up till now.

    Hope to hear something that may encourage me from you good people, as a guide.