1921 Census: find out what Manchester was like 100 years ago with new archive at Central Library

The city is one of just two places in the country where people can research the newly-released history of 100 years ago without having to shell out.

The 1921 Census is now available for people to view - and Manchester Central Library is one of just two places in the country where they can do so for free.

Budding historians wanting to take a look at what life was like 100 years ago can delve into the past at the iconic city centre building.

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Only those visiting Manchester Central Library or The National Archives in Kew can research the census, which was published on Thursday (6 January) by Findmypast, for free.

The Manchester library has been given the honour in recognition of being the busiest public library in the country and home to the Archives+ service.

The 1921 Census is now available for people to view

Why is the 1921 Census historically significant?

Taken between two world wars during a period of economic turmoil and at a time when women had just won the right to vote, the 1921 Census for England and Wales will provide some fascinating insights about society and how it has evolved over the past 100 years.

It also promises to be an invaluable source for family history researchers, all the more so because the 1931 record was lost in a fire and the 1941 information-gathering exercise was scrapped due to World War Two.

Manchester Central Library

The 1921 Census was the first to recognise divorce, and to capture people’s employment details. For the first time, researchers will be able to see all the family secrets and surprises from the interwar period.

All census information becomes available 100 years after the event.

And outside of Manchester and Kew it costs £2.50 for every record transcript and £3.50 for every original record image.

When the Census was taken in 1921 the average age of a Manchester resident was 29 or 30, the city was one of the top 10 most populated places in the UK, the most common marital status was married and the most popular surname was Smith.

How do I get to see the 1921 Census?

If you’re not already a member of the library, bring one form of ID showing your address and you can join up for free.

The census will be available on all 130 computers at the Central Library.

Support will also be available from the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Helpdesk which runs Monday to Friday from 10.30am to 3.30pm.

What has been said about the Census being published?

Coun Rabnawaz Akbar, executive member for neighbourhoods at Manchester City Council, said: “We are delighted that we can now welcome people into Manchester Central Library to access the 1921 census for free.

“It is truly an honour to be the only other place in England to offer this service for free apart from The National Archives.

“We cannot wait to see people coming through our doors to do their research and of course the Manchester and Lancashire Family History Society will be on hand to offer support to people. We would like to thank them for their support.

Manchester Central Library Credit: Shutterstock

”Dr Valerie Johnson, director of research and collections at The National Archives, said: “I am pleased to announce this regional hub in Manchester which, along with our own hub in London and one at the National Library of Wales, will offer free online access to the 1921 Census via the Findmypast website.

“These hubs will offer an important alternative to those not able to log on from home. Without commercial partnerships to digitise these records the alternative for everyone would be to travel to London and work through the papers themselves at The National Archives.

“We understand the excitement and anticipation of this release and, by making the census available online, we are hugely increasing its accessibility, while also preserving the original paper for generations to come.”