Sunday, March 27, 2011

Census 2011 - Why it really IS important

And here we are again, National Census day. In another few hours you need to have a look round your home, under the bed, in the shed, the back kitchen... work out just who is sleeping in your house tonight. And then record them all on your Census form.

You can do it online by the way, it took me 4 minutes... I was going to fill it in the old-fashioned way (which is very simple, a pen, a load of forms and an envelope)  but I reckon that my descendants will be interested in 100 years time, when the data is released, in whether I was IT savvy or not. This was my first chance to file online so I decided in the interest of history to be a torch bearer.

Why does it matter whether you fill your form in or not?

There are four basic reasons as I see it.

The first one, and probably the most important, is that the level of funds directed to your local council by the national Government is determined by the number of people recorded on the census. If you dont put your name down then no money will be forthcoming to your council on your behalf. It's like this okay, if you don't register on the census, then please don't put your bin out next week.

The second reason for completing your census is that it helps the Government, the health professionals and all sorts of other folk who rely on statistics to work out what kind of people live in these Isles and what their needs are. The personal information about you is all kept private for 100 years, yes really, nobody knows what your religion is, or who is staying with you tonight, or whether you have a job, or what kind it is, or any of that, for a century. What we will learn however are the gross figures. How many people are religious, how many are in work, how many have a disability, how many are carers, who lives alone (utilising too many bedrooms, like me perhaps with my three) and what proportion of us have a mortgage or pay rent or are sleeping on a mate's sofa. All of this data helps the policy makers to work out what they need to do next. You cannot underestimate the importance of this census data, and on those terms (but with less detail) it goes back to 1086 and the Domesday Book.

The third reason for completing it is because we are part of a history going back in its current form to 1841. Why would you not want to be part of something that has quantified and illuminated our nation for 170 years?

And the fourth reason is because the genealogists amongst your descendants will be waiting a long time to read your entry. Sometime in 2101 they will read your 2001 entry, but there will be some unanswered questions. Did you go on to have more children? Did you move? Did you find a good job? What was your health like? Where was your sister, she having been missing the decade previously. The rules of the game dictate that they will have to wait 10 years to get the next piece of the jigsaw. As each year ticks by they will get more excited, looking forward to 2111 when finally they might find out whether you passed your driving test, whether you embraced technology, whether you made it through University. Are you going to let them down?

I have been researching my family tree since 1983, nearly 30 years, and nothing irks me more than an ancestor who was missing on the census. Didn't they realise how much this would matter to me, even though I was only a far distant twinkle, had they no imagination?

You might like to see a few of the entries that helped me to move forward with my research

Here is Great Great Great Grandfather John Mottram with Great Great Grandmother Mary, at home in Ansley, Warwickshire. Mary went on to get married and bear 15 living children.

Or Great Great Gran Eliza Long in Bradford in 1901. Her illegitimate third child born in 1881 in Eccleshill, Bradford was fostered from birth and went on to join the army, marry and travel the world. He was my Great Grandfather.

And finally, as one Tweeter said today on Twitter, "Be grateful that you at least didn't have to ride to your home town on a donkey in order to be counted!"

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