Blog

  1. 1931 Census

    Many of you will know that the English and Welsh 1931 census returns were destroyed during WW11. What many people do not realise, however, is that this was not as a result of enemy action but caused by a ferocious fire which mysteriously broke out in a store room at the Office of Works one night in December 1942. The devastation was so great that, in the words of W. A. Derrick, the member of staff who reported the loss, it left behind ‘’nothing more than shapeless mounds of paper” making any attempt at salvage “useless”. The hearts of all family historians reading this will no doubt just have shuddered in horror!
    Mr Derrick worryingly also stated in his report (written to a colleague at the Central National Registration Office at Southport) “Will you also let us know where the enumeration books and plans of division relating to the 1921 census are stored. The schedules, as you are aware, were damaged by water at Leonard Street and have since been dried out and are scattered over various parts of Somerset House; but no plans or enumeration books were brought from Leonard Street and it is assumed that they were stored elsewhere.”
    Thankfully archival storage arrangements are now far superior to the arrangements of the 1940s and, putting it into some historical perspective, few people today would consider a documentary source of a mere twenty year’s age to be that important! However I still can’t help casting a swift backwards curse in time at the fate of these records and the fact that no-one thought to separate the census books from the householders’ schedules when they were stored away. At least the Scottish returns were housed safely in Edinburgh!