1911 census coverage

The 1911 census for England and Wales is available in full. The census also includes records for the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, Royal Navy ships at sea, and overseas military establishments. Please note: records for naval and military establishments based in the UK are included in the counties in which they are found. British ships docked in port will also be found in the relevant county. British Naval ships and military bases overseas are listed separately.

The census documents online

What does the 1911 census collection contain?

The surviving 1911 census pages consist of the original household pages and the enumerators’ summary books.

•The household schedules were the forms completed by each household. Every person who stayed in the house that night (household members and guests) in theory was included on the form
•Enumerators’ summary books (ESBs) were the books completed by each enumerator from the information provided in the household schedules
•The ESBs contain summaries of several households on one page – usually on the same street.

What 1911 census documents can I see online?

When you view an original page you will be shown the household schedule. The associated enumerator’s summary book images aren’t available to view yet, but will be added soon. You can also choose to view a modern transcript of the original page. You might choose to view a transcript if you find the handwriting difficult to read, or if you need to view several documents to confirm the identity of a person you are searching for.

How complete are the 1911 census records?

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.

Transcription and accuracy

Transcribing the census is a massive exercise. Every single digitised document has to be read and transcribed by hand, a process that results in over seven billion keystrokes over the course of the project. With this volume of keystrokes, errors are inevitable. However, during transcription, we apply a number of processes (which we have developed during our many years’ experience of digitising censuses and other historical documents) to correct the most obvious errors and keep inaccuracy to a minimum. The transcription is designed as a finding aid for the original documents, which should be viewed as the ‘source of truth’ and most users are able to find their ancestors despite the inevitable errors that creep in.

Transcription error reporting

Findmypast.co.uk customers can report transcription errors to us. Each report is reviewed by the transcription team and if the change is approved, our transcription will be updated accordingly. Our policy is to only accept changes if they match the entry on the original page. We are unable to make changes based on information supplied to us from a different source.

Unreadable and Contestable data

In a small number of cases, the transcribers come across data that is either ‘illegible’ or ‘contestable’. Illegible data either cannot be read at all, or so little of it can be read that it cannot be made sense of. Contestable data can be read but may be read differently by two or more people and it is not possible to say definitively which version is right.In such cases the transcribers use a question mark to indicate which data is unreadable, as shown on this table.

Census references

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. An example Census Reference:

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)

The fertility census

The falling birth rate, large numbers of people emigrating, and the reportedly poor health of the nation gave the government cause for concern in 1911. A large healthy workforce was needed for Britain to continue to develop as an industrialised nation, and these concerns prompted the government to include questions on ‘fertility in marriage’ in the 1911 census. In the 1911 census women were asked to state the ‘years the present marriage has lasted’, the number of children born alive to the present marriage (not just those who were living in the house) and how many had died. This is of particular interest to the family historian, because it can alert them to the existence of children who had died, as well as children who were away from the family home at the time of the census. It can also potentially point to earlier marriages, via the children who are listed on the census as ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ but who are not from the present marriage. Sometimes, these are easy to spot as the householders have helpfully listed them as ‘stepson’ or ‘stepdaughter’. In other cases it is possible to deduce which children are from previous marriages as the total number of children listed will exceed the number born to the present marriage, and their age will be more than the ‘years the present marriage has lasted’.

Occupational data

Additional occupational data

The start of the twentieth century was a time of rapid industrial and technological development in Britain and the government needed a specific idea of which industries were in growth or decline. So in the 1911 census people were asked for the first time to state which industry they worked in, in addition to their profession or trade. Many people misinterpreted this request and provided more information than they needed to, giving the name (and sometimes address) of their employer, as well as the industry. This has added benefits for the family historian who can get a fuller picture of the daily life of their ancestors, and in some cases follow an additional path through the employer details for further research.

1911 census occupation codes

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.

1911 census birthplace codes

A similar code system was also used to categorise birthplaces. Once again, if the birthplace of an ancestor is difficult to decipher, you should be able to identify it using our key to the 1911 census birthplace codes.

The Welsh records

You may encounter added difficulties when searching the 1911 census for Welsh records.

Two languages

Prior to the 1911 census, only the enumerators’ books were retained, and these were completed in English. On the 1911 census, householders were given the option of filling in the form in Welsh or English. 8.5% per cent of the population in Wales spoke only Welsh, while an additional 35% spoke both Welsh and English, so a percentage of the forms were written in Welsh. See a sample Welsh form A small number of forms were filled in with a mixture of English and Welsh. See a sample English and Welsh form These factors can make it tricky to find individuals in the Welsh records, and to understand any Welsh language results that are returned.

Common surnames

The difficulty of searching Welsh records is compounded by the fact that a few common surnames (such as Jones, Williams, Davies, and Evans) account for a large percentage of the population, and you may need extra information to narrow your search.

Common occupations

In addition, a large proportion of the Welsh population worked within a small number of industries. For example, one in 10 people worked in coal mining and one in 20 were farmers. This can make it difficult to find your ancestors among the many results. The below search tips will help you search for both English and Welsh returns without specific knowledge of the Welsh language, and we have also provided translation tables to help you understand results in Welsh.

Search tips

When you search for an ancestor with a common Welsh surname you will almost certainly need the forename as well. If you are unable to find your ancestor with the spelling that you have, try:

•Searching for variants and diminutives of the forename – even if you are sure that you have the correct spelling. The most common Welsh forenames have been added to the variants search, but you will need to refer to other sources, such as name dictionaries, for the variants of less common names, and search for them separately. The table of Welsh forenames may help you. It provides a list of diminutives, variants and Anglicised versions of the most common Welsh forenames, such as Gruffyd, Gruffud and Gruffydd; Aneirin and Aneurin; Alys and Alice.
•If your ancestor has a Welsh forename, and you are unable to find it with any of the Welsh spellings, you should also search the Anglicised spelling
•A wildcard search on the forename or last name will allow you to search for variations in spellings, and will also compensate for translation errors

Narrowing your search results

If your ancestor has a common name and you wish to narrow your search results you should use the birth year or the additional name fields, as these will return results in both English and Welsh. In the first instance we recommend that you use:

•your ancestor’s age
•names of other people in the household.
Then, if you wish to narrow the results, gradually add more fields to your search.

Understanding the results

Translation tables If the census form you need was completed in Welsh, you can use the translation tables to translate the most common terms into English. Tables have been provided for all the fields of the census return, though you may needto refer to other sources such as a Welsh/English dictionary if the term you find was not commonly used. For example, if your ancestor had a rare occupation, or if the form was filled out in a personalised way, such as ‘assisting at Cardiff Ice Co Limited’. You may also need to do some lateral thinking to use the translation tables, as the word you need to translate may be misspelled or it may be a grammatical mutation, so it will not appear exactly as it does in the table.

•For example, the Welsh for ‘sister’ is ‘chwaer’, although the following spellings have also been found in the returns: chwaer. (with added full stop), chwair and chwoer
•Grammatical mutations in Welsh cause certain letters to change at the beginning of the word. Examples of mutated forms have been found on some of the schedules, for example, berthynas for perthynas (relative) and ferch for merch (daughter).

If you can’t find a word, check this table to see how it could have mutated first, then look for the radical (unchanged) spelling in the translation table. Translation tables kindly provided by Geoff Riggs and Association of Family History Societies of Wales (http://www.fhswales.org.uk/) .

Why can't I find my ancestor?

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. If you see an error in the transcription you can report it via the ‘report transcription change’ button on the transcript page or above the image. If you are unable to find a person or address with the spelling you have, try a wildcard search

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.

Water damage

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.

Incorrect names

Bad spelling

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 and try using a wildcard search.

Try a wildcard search

If you are unsure of how a name was spelt or if you can’t find it with the usual spelling, the wildcard feature lets you broaden your search. You can create a wildcard search by including a * in the search. It can be used within all alphabetical search fields, except those with drop-down menus.

For example, if you search for William Lancaster but enter ‘*caster’ in the last name field, your results will include names such as Doncaster and Hilcaster as well as Lancaster. So if the initial part of William Lancaster’s last name has been wrongly transcribed, the results may still lead you to the right entry.

The initial and/or last letters of names are sometimes mis-transcribed. You can use two wildcards in a search field to allow for these types of transcription error. For example, you could enter *ollin* if you were having difficulty finding a Rollind or a Collins.

Birth year

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.

Missing people

By far the biggest cause of people missing from the 1911 census was civil disobedience.

The suffragettes

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 untraceablevia 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.

Address search

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.

Military and Royal Navy overseas

Searching military establishments and royal navy ships overseas

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.

Search tips

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.