For genealogists, the United Kingdom Census records are probably the most valuable records presently available. At the moment the census records from 1841 to 1911 are available searchable online at various commercial websites.

The next census, which was taken on Sunday 19 June 1921, is due to be released in 2022, this is despite efforts by various bodies to have it released earlier, as had happened with the 1911 census. However the official government position remained that “its intention to release the entirety of the 1921 Census returns in 2022, in accordance with the non-statutory ‘100 year rule’ which was adopted to reflect this undertaking of confidentiality”. The census when released will provide full details of the 42,767,530 individuals living in the United Kingdom at the time.

1921 Census

This however will sadly be the final census that genealogists will see for more than thirty years for a variety of reasons.

The 1931 census has been destroyed – it was being stored in an Ministry of Works warehouse that on the night of the 19th December 1942 caught fire, not as is commonly believed as a result of the blitz, but simply due to an accident. An archivist from the General Register Office who surveyed the ruins after the fire reported:

You will regret to hear that in a fire last Saturday evening which gutted the Office of Works store containing our Census records at Hayes, the whole of the 1931 schedules, enumeration books, plans of division and miscellaneous material stored in cupboards etc were completely destroyed. Mr Farrow and I went down to inspect the remains yesterday and we are both satisfied that it would be useless to attempt any sort of salvage operation; we are leaving the Office of Works to clear and dispose of the debris in any way they think desirable.

The fire was not occasioned by enemy action and how it achieved such dimensions in a store in which special hydrants had been fitted and said to have been in charge of a fire guard of 6 paid watchers, is a mystery which will need investigation. It is hardly possible to imagine a more complete state of devastation than the scene presented to us in which it was impossible to see where some of the racks had stood and where the remains were nothing more than shapeless mounds of paper rubbish dragged outside the building by the firemen who tackled the fire and where even the least damaged sheets that were recognizable were charred to the depth of two or three inches on all edges.

The next census, due to have been taken in 1941, didn’t happen due to the War, although in 1939, the government department tasked with issuing National Identity Cards did construct a register of every person in the country at the time. Parts of the 1939 register is available online at Find My Past, but only the entries related to individuals born over 100 years ago, or who had died prior to 1991, however if you can prove the death of an individual since 1991, you can request their record to be opened.

1939 Register

Thus the next available census will be that taken in 1951, which not be available until 2052, another 34 years, leaving a massive gap for genealogists, that we will never be able to fill.