Access to UK Census data

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A message to WHLF from:
Richard Rodger, FRHS, FAcSS, Professor Emeritus, University of Edinburgh.

Dear Chairman
I am contacting you because I believe local and family history societies deserve better access to the historical census ie those of 1861-1911, and of course 1921 in due course. This digitised resource, funded by The National Archives out of taxation, has been limited in its utility by the paywall which is operated by and others.

I have written an article explaining why this arrangement impairs local historical studies, and why it should be amended. The location of the data I have used to illustrate this argument has little to do with your area, but the principle is the same: making the public pay twice to see public records is no longer acceptable.

Here is the link to the paper. There are no copyright limitations by agreement with the publisher, Edinburgh University Press. So please distribute the paper to your members as you see fit.
Just cut and paste the link in your browser:

Yours sincerely,

Richard Rodger, FRHS, FAcSS
Professor Emeritus, University of Edinburgh

Some local background. There is some access to 1841-1911 Census data for free, but it is limited and may have the inconvenience of travel to a specific site:

1. A free transcription service allowing a comprehensive search facility is available at FreeCEN – UK Census Records (England, Scotland, Wales). This is not yet comprehensive and is only based on transcripts not the original document image. Useful for searching for an individual, not for researching who was resident in your town centre over time.

2. Free access to Census material is available on-site at the National Archives in Kew.

3. The 1881 census is available on-line through, the genealogical site of The Church of the Latter Day Saints: England and Wales Census, 1881.

4. Most large local libraries have free on-site access to basic family history data including UK Census, funded by the tax-payer but provided by Ancestry. Ancestry in collaboration with these libraries are offering members the Library Edition from home until the end of March 2021 (using their on-line library log-in).

5. The Hive at Worcester – have the Worcestershire census available on microfilm 1841-1901. Useful if you are a local but not if your search is for other Counties. They also have UK wide access free of charge through the Ancestry website.