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?


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Jane said...

You can see the 1921 census images free at Manchester Central Library but you only get two hours (unless the Lancashire Family history society could help get you access for longer?) In terms of getting to it, if it helps- train to Piccadilly, tram to any destination other than Bury (lifts down to it) and get off at St Peter's Square which is right in front of it (street level, ramps from platform. Computers are on ground floor of the library and it's all accessible. There's a cafe inside.

I can share info about the Weldrick family from Barnsley if it helps. Four of them were killed in WW1. Please email jane dot woodall 2016 dot at gmail dot com.

1915 Arthur died February
1915 Matthew died August
1915 William died November
1918 George died April

Commonweath War Grave: In memory of William Weldrick Private 2526 B Company 1st/5th Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment who died on Tuesday Nov 9 1916 age 20, son of Joseph and Mary Weldrick of 45 Vernon View, Cutting End, Worsborough Dale, near Barnsley. Buried Bard Cottage cemetery, Ypres (Ieper) Belgium

Commonwealth War Graves: In memory of Matthew Weldrick, Private 2179 7th Batallion Royal Munster Fusiliers who died on Monday August 16 1915 age 34, husband of Sarah Ann Weldrick of 11 Castlereagh St, Barnsley. Commemorated on the Helles Memorial, Turkey on the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula for all those who fell in the Gallipoli campaign and graves unknown or died/buried at sea.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission: Arthur Weldrick, Private 8351 2nd Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment, died Thursday Feb 18 1915, age 30, son of Mr and Mrs Weldrick of 7 Castlereagh St, Barnsley. Commemorated on the Ploegsteert memorial, Belgium for those who have no known grave.

Arthur is also commemorated on a war memorial at Huddersfield Town Hall as he was working as a tram conductor.

Town Hall, Huddersfield, 1st World War memorial: A Weldrick, employee.

1915 March 8 Tramways Committee told Private A Weldrick who was a tramway conductor previous to enlisting had been killed in action. The committee resolved to express their deep sympathy with his family in their sad bereavement. April 12 the tramways manager submitted a letter to the committee from the Barnsley section of the Soldiers and Sailors Families Associations and received instructions (details not given.)

Commonwealth War Graves: In memory of George Weldrick, Private 14/923 2nd Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment who died on Saturday April 27 1918, age 25, husband of Edith Annie, of 66 West Street, Worsborough Bridge, near Barnsley. Buried in Brandhoek New Military Cemetery, Belgium. The cemetery is near Ypres.