Just after midnight, the 1921 Census of Wales and England became available online for the first time.

The release is the culmination of a three-year digitisation project carried out by a private genealogy company, FindMyPast, on behalf of the UK National Archives.

The project saw 28,000 bound volumes of records carefully scanned and transcribed, totalling some 18.2million pages overall.

Anyone will be able to access this database via the FindMyPast website – provided they can afford the fee for each record (£2.50 for a single record transcript, and £3.50 for the scanned image of the original document).

The documents are also available to view for free at the National Library in Aberystwyth - and in England, at the Manchester Central Library.

The records, collected more than a century ago on 19th June 1921, reveal new details about the nearly 38million people living in Wales and England at that time.

READ MORE:  Sneak peek of 1921 census released ahead of January publication

Historians, researchers and amateur genealogists will be able to trace where individuals and their families were living and working, as well as the languages they spoke.

FindMyPast, also the first to publish the 1911 census, says that the 1921 census was “the most revealing record set up to that time”.

 

“It was the first census to recognise divorce, and to capture people’s employment details,” the company adds.

“For the first time, you'll see all the family secrets and surprises that this interwar census brings.”

Arriving in the wake of both the First World War and the Spanish Flu pandemic, the 1920s were tumultuous years in Britain.

The first steps towards women’s suffrage had been taken with the 1918 Representation of the People Act, and women would go on to win equal voting rights in 1928.

READ MORE: What will the census show us about the state of Welsh?

As coal mine owners sought to maintain profits during post-war economic instability, falling wages and increasing work hours for British miners led to the 1926 general strike, during which nearly two million workers from sectors including transport, printing, and steel, refused to work for nine days in an attempt to force the Westminster government to improve the situation.

The census also came on the back of vicious, widespread race riots in 1919. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities in cities across the UK – including Barry, Newport, and Cardiff – were beaten and terrorised by their white working-class neighbours. Five people were killed, while homes and businesses were vandalised.

The National Wales: The military carrying out civil authority functions in London during the 1926 General Strike (Picture source: Leonard Bentley)The military carrying out civil authority functions in London during the 1926 General Strike (Picture source: Leonard Bentley)

Historian Louvain Rees, who is currently co-authoring a book on the lives of Welsh asylum patients, said of the release: “The information collected on this census will help me immensely.

“I will be able to track the women that I’m currently researching, hopefully giving me an insight into their personal circumstances before admission to the asylum, as it now includes previous employment and marital status - which is information I may not already have.

“This census is particularly important for historians, as it was the first following the First World War.

“It will give us a new insight into post-war Wales, like the employment of soldiers after demobilisation, and the number of soldiers in institutional care.

“It shows us the effects of the war on family units, including a higher number of women listed as widows.

“The 1921 census shows that 730,000 children are listed as "father dead" vs 260,00 listed with "mother dead."

READ MORE: Vesting Day: 75 years since coal was nationalised in 1947

The census is a record-taking exercise that occurs every ten years – the most recent for Wales, England and Northern Ireland took place in March 2021, while Scotland’s census is planned for later this year.

The information provided informs governments, charities and other organisations plan and fund for the needs of different demographics across the country.

The results of the 2021 census will be released in phases over the next two years, with the first release expected in spring this year.

If you value The National's journalism, help grow our team of reporters by becoming a subscriber.