Catalogue description General Register Office: 1921 Census Returns

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Details of RG 15
Reference: RG 15
Title: General Register Office: 1921 Census Returns

Enumerators' schedules of returns made by heads of households for the 1921 census, which include the names, age, sex, occupation and parish and county of birth of individual members of the population of England, Wales, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands; included in this series are returns from ships of the Royal Navy at sea and in ports abroad, and military, naval and RAF bases overseas, including the island of Ireland.

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Date: 1921

The overall arrangement for the 1921 Census Returns is as follows:

  • 1. Registration District (RD)
  • 2. Registration Sub-District (RS)
  • 3. Enumeration District (ED)

Census Return volumes are arranged by Registration District and within each Registration District they are arranged by Registration Sub-District. The Census Returns are further arranged by Enumeration District within each Registration Sub-District.

The Census Return volumes use a three-part reference:

  • Registration District Number - (number) (RD)
  • Registration Sub-District Number - (number) (RS)
  • Enumeration District Number - (number) (ED)

For example, RD 1 RS 2 ED 1.

Additional information identifying Registration Sub-Districts and Enumeration Districts is available in the Plans of Division (RG 114). In some Registration Sub-Districts, the Enumeration Districts are described at street level, while others are identified in terms of parish, township or place.

For each Enumeration District the Plan of Division contains a description of its boundaries, and of its contents. This will usually be a list of streets, but may also include individual dwellings, especially in rural areas.

Related material:

General Register Office: 1921 Census Plans of Division Books RG 114

Held by: The National Archives, Kew
Legal status: Public Record(s)
Language: English and Welsh

General Register Office, 1836-1970

Physical description: 28162 volume(s)
Access conditions: Available in digital format
Immediate source of acquisition:

In 2022 Office for National Statistics

Accruals: No further accruals are anticipated.
Administrative / biographical background:

The Census of 1921 was the first to be taken in accordance with the provisions of The Census Act 1920.

The Census Act 1920 had notable effects on future census procedures. The main effect was that subsequent censuses could begin census preparations or recruit or allocate staff without their own dedicated Act of Parliament. The Act also featured a confidentiality clause which was stricter than previous censuses. The 1921 Census of population of England and Wales was taken on 19 June 1921.

Schedules were completed by a member of the household (usually the head of the household) and then signed by the head of the household. Enumerators undertook the distribution and collection of schedules of households. They also distributed schedules to large institutions within the boundaries of their enumeration districts, but the institution would be treated as an enumeration district, with the head of the institution acting as the enumerator. Officers of HM Customs and Excise enumerated those on-board mercantile shipping and fishing vessels while the Corporation of Trinity House made the arrangements for lighthouses and lightships. Returns of the homeless were obtained by the police.

The schedules contained an address and a schedule number and asked for particulars including:

  • Name and Surname
  • Relationship to Head of Household
  • Age
  • Sex
  • Marriage or Orphan hood
  • Birthplace and Nationality
  • Whether in full-time or part-time education
  • Personal Occupation
  • Employment
  • Place of Work
  • Number and ages of all living children and step children under 16 years of age (Information required only in respect of Married Men, Widowers and Widows)

Schedules for Wales and Monmouthshire also asked about speaking Welsh, and for the Isle of Man there was a question about whether Manx was spoken. The question about languages spoken was also included in the schedules for vessels institutions, and military establishments.

The 1921 Census was the first to provide for separate confidential returns to be made by individuals within a household who would otherwise suffer hardship by disclosing information to those with the duty of making the return.

There are also Schedules for

  • Institutions (workhouses, hospitals, hotels, schools, etc)
  • Shipping (merchant vessels)
  • Military establishments (barracks, training schools, British Army overseas, etc)
  • Royal Naval vessels

The Schedules were compiled separately from the Enumerator Books. The schedules were compiled in bound volumes.

There were Enumerator Books compiled for the 1921 census. The Registrar General held the household Schedules and the Enumerator Books. The Enumerator Books were destroyed by fire. Please see RG 20/109 for further information. The Plans of Division remain for the 1921 census and these have transferred, please see RG 114.

Please see RG 27/9 for an example (blank) of an Enumeration Book, with detailed instructions to enumerators as to how it should be completed, including an example of how a completed page should look.

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