Sleuthing The 1921 Census for England & Wales


I decided this week to spend some time sleuthing the 1921 Census of England and Wales.

When the 1921 census was launched on FindmyPast on January 6, 2022, there was such an interest in these records that there were times that the site was too busy to allow a person to get on. I did do a bit of research on the 6th, but I really have the time to search and purchase the records I really want this week.

Ways to Search

You can search several ways, as shown in the screenshot below. You can either search by name or address or go to the advanced search.

Census search choices

So, where do I begin? My immediate great grandparents had all traveled to Canada by 1921, so I am looking for the folks they left in England. I started with my grandfather’s parents’ surname, Middlebrough and Aindow. Those surnames are more unusual and won’t get nearly the same results as my dad’s grandparents, Oliver and Clark.

I went to the FindmyPast website and then chose the 1921 Census icon. I have a FindmyPast subscription, but the 1921 census is not included in my subscription, but I will get 10% off any purchases I make.

I decided to search for is my 2x great grandfather, John Henry Middlebrough, and his second wife, Emily. I know from my research that they were both alive in 1939, so I should be able to find them in 1921.

I decided to search pretty wide open, so I searched the surname Middlebrough, and I chose Liverpool, Lancashire, as the birthplace where John Henry was born.

I got four results that you can see below. Note the two icons marked with an arrow. On the left is the transcript choice and on the right is the recorded image button. If you hover over the transcript or the image choices, they give you a clue to the others that you can find on the record. In this case, I don’t find John Henry or Emily, but I do see Ellen Middlebrough, and I can gather from hovering over Ellen’s census view, it tells me I will also see George born in 1865 and William born in 1896. I know that because of the record for William, who was born in 1864; when I hover over his record, he is the only person living there.

Census search results

So who are these people? I quickly look at my family tree, searching for George, born in 1865, and I find George Middlebrough and his wife, Ellen Finnan. They had several children, but their son, William, didn’t marry his wife until 1925. So I can gather that this is my 2nd great uncle and his wife.

So I continue on my search for John Henry and Emily.

Searching for John or Emily, or even Henry, doesn’t provide any matches that help me. Yes, there are results but no records of John and Emily living together. I find some matches for John Middlebrough when I expand to include name varients and just include Lancashire, England as the county, but again, no one who would seem to be John Henry.

Hmmm, were they somewhere else? I know John and Emily were living in Manchester in 1939, so I searched, giving the location of the record as Manchester but again, there is no John’s in the four results that fit my John. When I search Emily Middlebrough with just her birthdate with a +/- of 5, I again get no promising results. I even try searching for them completely wide open with no location but don’t find any likely matches.

So, for now, I put John and Emily aside.

Next, I decided to look for my other 2x great grandparents, Richard Aindow, born in 1862 in Manchester, England. His wife, Harriet, my 2x great grandmother, passed away in 1926, so I should find them together. My search gives me eight results, but no one appears to be my Richard.

I do know that in the 1939 Registry, Richard was living with his daughter, Harriet Formby. I can find Harriet and her husband, William, and her son William Robert but when I hover over the transcribe or image button, it shows three names on the record and no indication that there are any others. But I see on the record that the Parish is Wavertree and the registration district in West Derby.

So I searched again for Richard, but I didn’t find a Richard listed in Wavertree, and there are no other Richards in other locations that could be him.

Wow, I’m batting a thousand here, so I decided perhaps I will look for the more common surnames on my father’s side of the family. In this case, the only person living in 1921 is my 2x great grandparent, Charlotte Oliver nee Vincent. She was born in Damerham, Hampshire, England, and she died in 1936, so if I can find her, this will be the last census type record I will find her in.

I decided to search just for her name and Sussex as that is the county where she lived most of her life other than a brief stay in Canada during WWI. Thankfully I found her. As I go further to purchase the recorded image, I see that she is living with her grandson William George Charles and his wife, Violet Maria, and one other person.

1921 Census Search Results

The Cost

The image cost is 3.50(GBP) British Pound or approx $5.96 Canadian or $4.90 US. I suggest that you purchase the image and only purchase the transcript if you can’t read the writing. The transcripts cost 2.50(GBP) British Pound or approx $4.26 Canadian or $3.50 US. As I mentioned earlier, if you have a FindmyPast subscription, you will get a 10% discount.

After my purchase, I’m taken to the census page, giving the household details. I see that my great-grandmother, Charlotte, is living with her grandson William and his wife, Violet. He is a musician working at the Brighton Hippodrome, and their daughter Winnifred is 5 years old.

The Brighton Hippodrome was built in 1897 and was originally an ice skating rink and later hosted circus acts, vaudeville shows, and later, even the Beatles and Rolling Stone performed there.

When you purchase your image, be sure to look at the next image because that’s where you’ll see the exact address where your family lived. William Vincent and his family lived at 10 Osborne Road, Brighton, England. A quick search of Google street view gave me an idea of what their home looked like at the time. (Do you look at the street view when you find an address?)

10 Osborne Road, Brighton, England

This record made me wonder… where was Charolotte’s daughter, Beatrice Madeline Oliver. In the previous census, she had been living with her mother. So I searched for her and found her living in Brighton at 13 Clifton Street. She is 35 years old and still single, but she’s living with a gentleman that’s 75, and he’s listed as her “uncle,” and his name is Joseph Henry Adcock. I don’t know who this man is, but he’s not an “uncle” as far as I know, and this is a totally new name.

So now I’m down a rabbit hole, and I search for Joseph in the 1911 census, and I realize I have seen this man before; in the 1911 Census, he is a lodger, and he’s living with my great grandmother and Beatrice.

I feel like I’m on a roll.. so I decided to search for my great uncle Noah Clark. Noah is an interesting man because he was the founder of the Albion and Hove Football team, and I’ve stood in front of the house where he lived in Brighton, England.

A search with just his name and date of birth gets me three results, but he’s top of the list. I find it interesting that his birthplace is totally different from other records which have always shown Brighton. As I hover over the image button, I see that he’s living with his wife Fanny and someone named Helen so I’m fairly sure it’s Noah despite the difference in birthplace.

I took a moment before I purchased it to find out if one of my cousins might have purchased it already. She told me that she was going to the National Archives on Friday, so I decided to wait and get a copy from her. The 1921 Census of England and Wales is available for free at the National Archives Reading Room, but because I live in Canada, it’s not a quick trip as it is for her.

Who have you found in the 1921 Census?


  • Sandy says:

    Brighton and Hove Albion is a premier league team now and have a wonderful stadium’ called the Amex funded by American Express who have a big branch or headquarters in Brighton. Well done Noah

  • Barry Spinner says:

    PS The grandmother never saw her brother Alfred again, as she had just recently emigrated to Toronto. They all corresponded, but no letters survive.

    GM did finally visit in the 1950s, and found modern Britain somehow distasteful. Remember Britain was badly damaged by the War, with English rationing ongoing into the 1950s! And here in Canada we had the successful baby Boom ; bringing prosperity to almost all.

    PPS A historical footnote is that the UK decided to pursue nuclear weaponry development, and this decision cost billions of Pounds keeping the nation poor for another decade.

  • Barry Spinner says:

    I found my grandmother’s elder bachelor brother still living with his widowed mother in Rotherhithe, a working class suburb of London (by then part of London).

    I knew already that he would die shortly thereafter . War wounds from WWI? She loved him dearly, naming her first born Alfred (my crazy uncle), after him!

    All the other Dwyers have moved out earlier forming their own London families.

    PS I did not purchase any images, as the data is not very useful to me.

    • Barry, I found several other distant family members but I’m only purchasing the ones that I think might be of interest. Especially the direct line family but not necessarily the other children. That will come later either if and when I return to England or when FindmyPast makes it a part of the subscription. It’s much different for folks that still live in the UK and have most of their family in the census.