Census Sunday: Proposed UK Census changes

The other day a colleague handed me an interesting article by Simon Szreter to read from this month's issue of  History Today magazine (January 2014) about the proposed changes to the collection of UK census information.  In fact, the Office of National Statistics or ONS as they are more often called -- the department responsible for the census 'are proposing two possible options for the 2021 census' which according to the article are:

'One possibility is to try to ensure that the census is returned online as much as possible. 
Provided the proper safeguards are put in place to cater for information from the predominantly
 older section of the population who would otherwise be disadvantaged by this new method,
 this is probably a sensible move.'

'The second option under consideration would represent a historic abandonment of the census's democratic principle of information collection established since 1841. This idea is to drop the census of every individual and instead patch together a number of disparate sources of more partial or anonymous statistical information on the characteristics of the British population already collected . . . . the argument is that this kind of composite database can provide more regular updates on change . . . to satisfy the needs of government bodies  . . . and will be cheaper to administer than a census . . .'

If the ONS does decide to follow this radical second option we can all imagine what the ramifications are for future generations of family historians who will have an even greater challenge of finding information on their own UK family's past.

'Taking the Census' an illustration of 1861.
Image from History Matters, January 2014.

If you would like to search the 1841-1911 UK Census records they are easy to access for free at any of the Auckland Libraries through the Ancestry and FindMyPast databases in the Digital Library.

For some useful hints on using census records you may want to check out a new book in our family history collection by  Emma Jolly, 'Tracing your Ancestors Using the Census: A Guide for Family Historians', which is packed with advice on how to explore and get the most from these records.


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