Thursday 28 October 2021

News about the 1921 census and how it might impact my academic plans

Some of the historians I follow on Twitter are complaining about the recently revealed starting prices for the Find My Past (FMP) release of the 1921 census from 6 January next year. As usual when new census or census-like collections are released access to the information will be charged at a premium rate and on top of any subscription we already hold. This time the prices proposed feel much higher than we paid at similar releases for the 1911 census and 1939 Register.

Current prices for Find My Past subscriptions 

The extra premium charges are particularly irritating as Find My Past recently moved their old newspapers collection to the Pro subscription as part of their restructuring of their subscription packages, which means I'll be paying more than £60 extra next year to get the access I have now. Newspapers are something I use in my research nearly every day. My old subscription was the British one, all the census, parish and military records, roughly what they now call the Plus package, but with the newspapers included. With the FMP loyalty discount I paid £93.46 in January 2021. I expect to pay £159.99 next January, I have no idea if the loyalty discounts will still be applied. 

I did compare the new prices to a subscription with the British Newspaper Archive itself (all part of the same umbrella company) but the Pro package, even at £60 more still beat the price of two separate subscriptions. Ok, so the Pro will include their Worldwide records too, but I hardly ever want to use those, as my main areas of study are family (mainly Barnsley and the North East) and local (Barnsley) and military history of the First World War.  My strategy for occasional overseas records on Ancestry has usually been to go to the library to look them up, and email them back to myself from there. I could have visited a library in Sheffield to do the same for Find My Past if I had wanted to badly enough. 

1921 census pricing as announced yesterday

Sadly paying £2.50 per 1921 household census transcription and another £3.50 for the image of the actual document is prohibitively pricy. I will probably pay for my grandparents, as they'll be of interest to my extended family, but certainly not for all the 450 Barnsley born First World War soldiers I was planning to research for my PhD. Apparently I will get a 10% discount on the prices as a Pro package subscriber, but that only reduces the prices to £2.25 and £3.15, not a huge difference. 

Eventually the 1921 census will no doubt become part of the subscription price, or available on Ancestry as part of my subscription with that provider,  as the 1911 census and the 1939 Register did, but will happen within the next two years? Probably not. I may have four more years to go in which to complete my PhD, but I can't cross my fingers and hope to look up all the families I want to at the last minute, all the information would need to be analysed and tabulated and interpreted.  

People will be able to view the digital images for free at The National Archives in Kew from 6 January 2022, but that's a very long way for me to go, and if you factor in travel expenses and a hotel for two (I could not manage without the OH's help these days) I suppose buying some selected images at £3.50 a time begins to look more reasonable.  Sadly to buy all the ones I would need to research my soldiers' families would cost thousands of pounds [£3.15 x 450 = £1,417.50] and that is if I only look up one image and no transcription per man. I am more likely to need multiple household images per man, for his immediate family (widow and children), his parents and his siblings.

I would have paid £1 or maybe even £1.50 per household (after all research expenses are part of what my student loan is for), making prices reasonable surely would have led to bulk purchases by many people. When wills were reduced from £10 to £1.50 each a few years ago I bought 10 in one go! When birth and death certificates were, for a limited time, £5 for a pdf instead of £11 for a paper copy I sent for all the ones on my 'to do' list in one batch . I've always been happy to buy chunks of credits for Scottish digital certificates as they work out at £1.50 a time, even if it takes me a few months to use all the credits up.

Changing Family Size in England and Wales

Some academic historians (for example Garrett, Reid, Schurer and Szreter, see left) were given special access to the 1911 census before the general public, but they could only use the data on marriages and fertility, not any personal information. I can remember going to a talk given by two of the above historians before the book was published, it all sounded very fascinating,  but it took me until relatively recently to be able to afford a second-hand copy.  The link below the image takes you to the Amazon page where the book description gives more information.  

I wonder if anyone was given similar access to the 1921 census?

Saturday 16 October 2021

Happy Birthday Blog! How have things changed in the last nine years?

It's my blog's birthday today. I wrote my first post on 16 October 2012. Happy 9th birthday blog!

I just had a look at the original post and some things have improved.

I applied for, and eventually got, Personal Independence Payments (PIP) after my ESA was stopped, with much help filling in the forms from AgeUK and the local Citizens Advice Bureau.  This year, as I turned 60, my occupational pension started paying out. But my  three attempts and nine years of trying to get it released early due to my ill health had got me nowhere and caused a huge amount of stress. Each time the pension panel doctors stated that I would be well enough to return to work, full time and doing what I did before I left, within three years. Well, obviously that didn't happen. 

At least now I have some personal money coming in to buy books, clothes, boots and contribute to the household bills (reviewing that sentence I think it shines a light on my priorities, which do appear a bit odd ... books more important than clothes? ... well of course they are, clothes can be worn until they drop to bits, but you always need more books). Buying disability aids was made possible by the PIP money, but steps and wrist rests and walking aids, etc, etc aren't cheap. Yesterday I even considered (but resisted) buying a very expensive device to hold my books for me when I'm reading. I ordered a £7 neck support cushion instead. The book holder is on my Amazon wishlist though if all my family want to chip in and get it for me for Christmas?  

I am still studying, not with the Open University anymore, but at a bricks and mortar Uni, albeit at a distance and online (following the introduction of Student Loans for postgraduate study). The increase in OU fees was a blow and as I understand their student intake has reduced by a third, I am obviously not the only older person that decided lifelong learning was no longer affordable.  I am now in my second year as a part-time PhD student examining war memorials in Barnsley.  

The very best thing to happen this year was the arrival of my granddaughter Ffion in July, and tomorrow she comes to Barnsley (with her parents of course) and my mum and mum in law will finally get to see their first great-grandchild. 

Sadly other things are no better, or even somewhat worse. 

My health, which collapsed so suddenly in 2004, has never recovered, and as I get older more and more bits of me are wearing out, adding to the permanent problems caused by Crohn's and Fibromyalgia. I am currently wearing a quadruple layer of tubigrip on my left ankle because two nights ago it dislocated while I was lying in bed. This is a recurring problem, but usually only happens when I turn my ankle on uneven pavement or put weight on it when climbing into bed (buying a step to help me get into bed helped with that). Having it pop out of joint when I wasn't actually doing anything was very scary.

I see that in 2017 I was worried because proving my identity was a problem, the only thing I had was my driving licence. Now I don't drive at all, and after a black-out a few years ago I should really have sent my licence back to the DVLA. It runs out in 2023, but we have since renewed our passports (for a holiday that didn't happen because of the Covid pandemic), so I will be able to prove I'm me for a few more years. Not that going on holiday seems likely at the moment as my mobility (even with a functioning ankle) has declined to the point that last year we spent lots of my PIP on a wheeled walking aid with a seat. Even my 83 year old mum hasn't got a seat on her rolator (though my mum in law has, and I'm quite jealous of her all terrain wheels as mine is quite hopeless on bumpy grass in cemeteries).

The pandemic has meant that I haven't been to a library or an Archives for nearly two years, my PhD seminars and supervision meetings have all been done over Zoom and the highlight of last week was my first trip to a 'virtual' pub with the Great War Group. The OH did take me to the cinema this week to see the new Bond film, and we ate in the Wetherspoons afterwards, but I didn't feel safe surrounded by people not wearing masks.  I probably had Covid in March/April 2020 and I've been double jabbed (eventually, but that's another story) but as I understand you can still get infected again I don't want to risk it with my underlying health problems.  Unfortunately after our meal it was a long and slow walk, with only my walking stick, to get back to the bus station. We hadn't brought my rolator because we were going to the pictures (where do you put it in the cinema?) and I was expecting to get a taxi home, but the OH was unable to book one when we needed it. That walk probably didn't help my ankle, I have noticed my joints fail (in dramatic ways, not just swelling) much more after a longish walk. 

Finally, in a not unexpected blow yesterday, our electricity and gas supplier went out of business so I anticipate our bills going up to the cap with the new, allocated, supplier. We are still waiting to see if a builder can be found to extend our small 1930s kitchen, still decorated 1970s style, as it was when we bought this house 10 years ago, into our coal shed. And I discovered that Howdens don't have kitchen displays to look at, it's all done on a computer these days. I nearly cried, I just wanted to see what sage green cupboard doors look like in real life before we committed to them. Fortunately Wickes do have displays still and the OH had enough spare time to take me there instead. At least the money we have saved not going on holidays or on trips out during the pandemic will buy some new cupboards. If it doesn't all get gobbled up by power bills and rising food prices.

My ankle is quite painful (stiff upperlip now quivering I'm afraid) and currently stopping me sleeping. I hope today's Amazon delivery of various ankle supports will help with its recovery. Not worth troubling the doctors about of course, there's nothing they can do to fix it. It's going to make Tai Chi at the local Methodist Church tricky on Tuesday though. I suppose I could just stay at home and watch the next Doctoral College seminar, which is on Blogging as a Research Student!