Free access to record of nation recovering from turmoil

This story was published 10 November 2022

A historical record dating from a century ago that paints a picture of a nation coming to terms with a period of huge upheaval is now publicly available for people in North Yorkshire to explore.

An old black and white photo with a steam engine, people and horse.

Customers at libraries across the county can study the 1921 census for England and Wales for free, enabling them to learn more about their ancestors, people who used to live in their house or community, or people important to their research.

Until now, this snapshot of a moment in time has been available only to paying subscribers, but now North Yorkshire Libraries is providing free access to all library members via the Find My Past website when they use the library computers in their branch.

Executive member for libraries, Cllr Greg White, said: “On June 19, 1921, almost 38 million people in England and Wales completed a census return. This unique insight allows us to step back 100 years and witness up close a key moment in the lives of those who had survived the First World War, and who were embarking on a new decade.

“There is no end to the secrets and surprises within the 1921 census. Using Find My Past at your library, you can delve into this archive to help you to solve mysteries in your family stories or expand your local history research.”

In 1921, the country was adjusting to peacetime and the lasting impact of the First World War and influenza pandemic of 1918. The 1921 census shows the devastating losses of those who died in the war and pandemic.

Personal information shows the impact of the war on every family – who people were living with, where they were working and how relationships had been affected. The 1921 census provides greater detail than any previous census, asking additional questions about marital status, employment and education.

Cllr White added: “This is an invaluable resource, and I’m sure the fact that it is now freely available in communities across North Yorkshire will be welcomed by the county’s many family and local historians. This will be the last new census information made available until 2052.”

All library members are entitled to one hour’s free use of computers each day and subscriptions are available at £35 for unlimited access, for a year, or £20 for six months. It is free to join your library.