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Discussion -Census Returns

KeithS

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#1
http://www.familyhistory.uk.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=25&Itemid=2
[h4 align=center]Census Returns:[/h4][br][br]Censuses have been taken in the every 10 years since 1801, the only exception in 1941 during World War II. The early ones were only basically head-counts of each house, but from 1841 they are a most useful and cheap source of genealogical information and research. [br][br]The census returns are subject to a 100-year closure rule, so, at the present moment, we are only able to view those for 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and lately the 1901 census. . . .
The subject of the 100 year closure rule is an interesting one. I have seen mention that this rule is being challenged due to it's contravening our recently adopted Freedom of Information Act. The argument being made is that, with this act, the 100 year closure rule is no longer valid. it would be interesting to read people's thoughts on this.

keith.
 

admin

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#2
Hi Keith,

I remember last year being involved with a petition, where we got fellow genealogists to contact there MP and ask for some pressure.

Since then this has been asked in parliment, with the following (the latest skirmish) a record of the minutes for 7 June 2005:
Link parliament.the-stationery-office
Census Returns
Lorely Burt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs under what arrangements (a) the College of Arms and (b) other applicants receive copies of personal information from closed decennial census returns; and if she will take steps to extend those arrangements to allow personal information to be exceptionally released from the 1911 and 1921 censuses for Ordsall Hall, Retford, Nottinghamshire. [1844]

Ms Harman: The 1911 census returns are in the custody of the National Archives, and requests for information contained in them are considered on a case by case basis under the Freedom of Information Act, in consultation with the Office for National Statistics as the transferring department. So far it has not been possible to make any returns from the 1911 census available, including the one referred to by the hon. Member, because they are covered by the S.41 exemption of the Act relating to breach of confidence.

Census returns from 1921 onwards were taken under the provisions of the Census Act 1920 and are in the custody of the Registrar-General for England and Wales. The 1920 Act prohibits the release of personal information by the Registrar-General without lawful authority. In consequence, they are covered by S.44 of

7 Jun 2005 : Column 538W

the FOI Act relating to information prohibited from disclosure by or under any enactment. No returns from the 1921 census have been made available under the Freedom of Information Act.

Lorely Burt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs what assessment she has made of the impact of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 on (a) 100-year decennial census closure and (b) the Public Records Act instrument no. 12 (1966); and what the basis is for the Government's policy that the 1911 and 1921 census returns for Ordsall Hall, Retford, Nottinghamshire shall continue to be closed to inspection for 100 years. [1845]

Ms Harman: The reasons behind the Government's policy of releasing decennial census returns after a period of 100 years were most recently set out by the Constitutional Affairs Minister on 29 March 2004. Under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, extended closure instrument no. 12 of 1966 ceases to apply. In accordance with the Act and with Government policy, the National Archives considers each request for access to the 1911 returns on a case by case basis, in consultation with the Office for National Statistics as the transferring department. So far it has not been possible to grant any of these requests, including the one referred to by the hon. Member, because they are covered by s.41 exemption of the Act relating to breach of confidence.

Census returns from 1921 onwards were taken under the provisions of the Census Act 1920 and are in the custody of the Registrar-General for England and Wales. The 1920 Act prohibits the release of personal information by the Registrar-General without lawful authority. In consequence, they are covered by s.44 of the FOI Act relating to information prohibited from disclosure by or under any enactment.

Lorely Burt: To ask the Minister of State, Department for Constitutional Affairs whether the UK courts have tested Government policy on withholding personal information from the decennial censuses from being inspected before the records are 100 years old. [1846]

Ms Harman: The Government's policy of releasing individual census returns after a period of 100 years has not been tested in the UK courts.
Maybe we could all get together and test it in the courts!
Anyone up for it? :wink:

Regards,
Dave
 

KeithS

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#3
This is where the government has us over a barrel. You can be assured that their counsel will at least have the advice of a team of QC's. That means that the complainant would need to have at least the equivalent. This on top of the cost of a team of very efficient lawyers to argue the case in court.

Lo and behold, the costs of bringing such a case would be astronomical. Not the sort of thing that the vast majority of individuals could afford. Therefore, a legal challenge is most unlikely to ever be brought to court. And, if unchallenged, the status quo continues.

Perhaps there is some truth in the old adage that the law is something we live under, but justice is for those who can afford it.

Sorry, my cynical side is showing today. ;D

Keith.
 

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#4
Hi Keith,

When I said:
Maybe we could all get together and test it in the courts! :)
Anyone up for it?
It was a little 'tongue in cheek'! - though thinking about it maybe we could do something!

As family history / genealogy is now "officially" the biggest hobby in the uk, with all those people out there, maybe - just maybe we could all get together and donate or subscribe to a common cause!

Just an idea! ::)
Regards,
Dave
 

dcordery

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#5
A bit out of context I know, but those census returns that have been INDEXED seem to create a few problems. Using the 1861 return indexed by 1837 online give me Nil returns on what I have been searching, yet when you go on Ancestry.co.uk you get a result!! It seems to me in view of this that although it would appear that that this is a duplication of work, it is just as well that the two organisations are independantly doing their own thing and you can cross check one against the other whether it be names or addresses
 

patrickw

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#6
While reading this very interesting thread, I began to wonder if the recent changes in U.K. law viz the European union and its laws and pondered if these changes altered anything for us. I dont know what the situation is in other union member countries but it may be interesting to try to find out. It could be argued both morally and in law, that if one country released information substancially earlier (or later) than other member states , the citizens of the other member states were being denied their famous (infamous) human rights. I will watch this space with interest. I am sure that there are far cleverer people than me who visit this site who may have already considered this aspect and already know the answer
 

pejay

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#9
I too would love to be able to view the 1911 census - without paying the earth for it, a reasonable price fair enough. I too signed a petition about a year ago, but alas we got nowhere, :(
 

Guy

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#10
Being the person responsible for forcing a change of policy with regard to the 1911 census I would say don't give up.

The next "census" to be "released" will be the 1939 National Registration as this is not covered by the 1920 Census Act.

I am also pursuing ways to have other census released based on the fact that parliament was not given the true facts of the 100 year closures, thereby depriving ministers of the true facts before they made their decisions. ;)
Cheers
Guy
 

Hugo Donnachie

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#11
"Ms Harman: The 1911 census returns are in the custody of the National Archives, . ."

How many National Archives are there?

I have always thought the National Archives of Scotland were separate from the National Archives of England, I do not know the position of Ireland and Wales.
 

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