POET Dylan Thomas is listed as speaking Welsh on the 1921 census which has now been released to the public after the documents were sealed for more than 100 years.

Taken on June 19, 1921, the records hold information about nearly 38 million people who lived in Wales and England during a period of economic turmoil and when some women had just won the right to vote.

Among the millions to complete it was the prime minister of the day, Welshman David Lloyd George.

Scroll down to see what you need to know about viewing the 1921 census online and in libraries

Another famous Welshman to be found on the document is a six-year-old Dylan Thomas.

The future poet, who was living at home in Swansea with schoolmaster father David, mother Florence and older sister Nancy, is like the rest of the household, listed as speaking both Welsh and English.

READ MORE:  1921 Census gives snapshot into Welsh life a century ago

Professor Daniel G Williams, of the English department at Swansea University questioned, on Twitter, if others were aware that Thomas could speak Welsh. Writing in Welsh the professor said it was "interesting".


Caernarvon Boroughs MP Lloyd George, who became prime minister during the latter stages of the First World War, spent June 19 1921 – when the census was recorded – at Chequers along with his wife, Margaret, son Richard and his family.

The statesman records his personal occupation as “Prime Minister”, his employment being “His Majesty’s Government”, and his place of work as “10 Downing Street”.

Aside from the six family members inside the Buckinghamshire residence, the census also lists three civil servants as being present, including his private secretary Edward William Macleay Grigg, as well as 13 servants – the youngest being a 15-year-old kitchen maid called Lavinia originally from Hadfield in Derbyshire.

The form, which shows there were eight males and 17 females present, was filled out by Lloyd George himself.

READ MORE: The story of A Child's Christmas in Wales

NHS founder Aneurin Bevan was recorded as living in London at the time of the 1921 census where he was regestired at Kelabour College on Perrywern Road in Kensington.

The National Wales: Aneurin BevanAneurin Bevan

The Tredegar-born miner’s son was 23 at the time and studying social science at The Labour College. He would return to Tredegar later that same year before going on to become an MP in 1929.

While Bevan hadn't yet had the opportunity to make his grand vision of a national health service a reality Lloyd George's ambition with the 1919 Housing Act was to build “homes fit for heroes”.

But, two years on, James Bartley, a 33-year-old gas fitter and father of three children under five, used the census as an opportunity to register his complaint at a lack of action.

Mr Bartley, from Hove in Sussex, added the following annotation to his census return: “Five persons living in one room. Stop talking about your homes for heroes and start building some houses and let them at a rent a working man can afford to pay.”

READ MORE: How Welsh miners celebrated coal nationalisation

Another notable Welsh political figure to be found is the academic and activist Saunders Lewis who in a little over three years would be one of those who helped form Plaid Cymru.

The 27-year-old is listed at the home of his father, Lodwig, 64, whose personal occupation is  "minister of the gospel", and Saunders' occupation is a librarian employed by the "Glam education committee" in Cardiff.

Father and son, and Lodwig's sister-in-law Ellen Elizabeth, are all listed as speaking both English and Welsh.

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Historian Martin Johnes has shared the entry for Saunders Lewis on Twitter and the Swansea University professor has also discovered that 34,726 people listed their nationality as Welsh including 5,840 who were living in England. 

Johnes said it should be noted only those born outside of the UK were asked to give their nationality.


ITV Wales presenter Rob Osborne has also been looking at the records. He was searching for 102-year-old Owen Filer, star of a viral internet video just two years ago.


The Cwmbran resident became perhaps Wales' best known centenarian in January 2020 when the reporter stopped him in Newport for an impromptu vox pop interview and was stunned to discover the youthful army veteran was 100.

Rob shared a tweet to confirm he had found Mr Filer on document which is almost as old as the man born in October 1919.


How to view the 1921 census online

The 1921 census is available online at findmypast.co.uk as well as in person at the the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, the National Archives in Kew and the Manchester Central Library.

Findmypast said the 1921 Census will not immediately be free to view - but you can access it via any subscription, including libraries. 

It will only be available via pay-per-view access for the initial period, Findmypast said.

Viewing transcriptions costs £2.50 per record while records can also be viewed as an image of the original document, viewing images costs £3.50 per record.

12-month Pro subscribers via Findmypast can access a 10 per cent discount on all 1921 Census purchases, according to Findmypast.

How can I view the 1921 census for free?

Visitors to the National Library of Wales will be able to view the 1921 Census online for free via the Findmypast website.

This also applies to the National Archives in Kew and Manchester Central Library.

Controversial pay-per-view census decision

Some historians have raised concerns over pay-per-view access to the 1921 census while others looking to analyse their family history complained online.

Catherine Warr, the historian behind YouTube channel 'Yorkshire's Hidden History', said it was important to make "history accessible to all".

READ MORE: Government papers reveal secrets of Nelson Mandela's visit to Cardiff

The historian said: "As a working-class, non-academic historian, I'm passionate about making history accessible to all.

"Whilst there are costs involved in digitising census records and it does involve a lot of work, all that keeping these records behind a paywall does is make it harder for historians and family researchers from lower economic backgrounds to access this information.

"The Welsh Newspaper Archive has managed to make millions of newspapers, from the 19th century to 1918, free for everyone to access, demonstrating that keeping information behind a paywall is a choice, not an obligation.

The National Wales: Undated handout photo issued by Findmypast Tanya Nakamoto, a Findmypast conservator pushing a trolley of boxes containing some of the 30,000 bound volumes of the 1921 Census, which take up 1.6 linear kilometres of shelving, at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) near Southampton. Undated handout photo issued by Findmypast Tanya Nakamoto, a Findmypast conservator pushing a trolley of boxes containing some of the 30,000 bound volumes of the 1921 Census, which take up 1.6 linear kilometres of shelving, at the Office for National Statistics (ONS) near Southampton.

"If we want to make sure that genealogy and historical research is a welcoming and open hobby for all, we must make it easier for all people to access records - and that means making them free."

Why isn't the 1921 census free?

Findmypast said it had made a "significant investment" in "conserving, digitising, transcribing and building an experience that enables meaningful, accurate searches" of the 1921 census.

The 1921 census saw teams from Findmypast and the National Archives carefully digitise more than 30,000 bound volumes of original documents, all stored on 1.6 linear kilometres of shelving. 

Speaking via the Findmypast website, Findmypast said: "Every page of the fragile physical documents had to be handled by a trained conservation technician who was responsible for a variety of delicate tasks, including removing any objects that could damage the paper, correcting folds covering the text, teasing apart pages that had become stuck together, restoring tears and checking for and repairing other damage."

Additional reporting by Twm Owen.

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