A Problem with Ancestry.co.uk and the 1911 census?

The indexed and digitised census returns provided by the likes of Ancestry and Findmypast have been a boon to family historians over the last 10 years. With so many millions of names published on-line we of course expect there to be errors and for the most part we can work with this – as long that is the database that provides the data to us is working correctly.

I prefer Ancestry’s database to Findmypast‘s as the former allows you to search on any piece of data while Findmypast is more restrictive. For example, on Ancestry, there’s no need to enter a name at all so you can search on parish name alone if you want to. This is very useful for those of us with local history interests as well as genealogy.

However, there seems to be a problem with Ancestry.co.uk’s 1911 census database currently. The following is a good example of the problem. In the England database**, try searching on the following index field alone by entering the following wildcard “Pem*” in the “County or island” of birth field and for the 1911 census you will see that there are currently 483 names returned. By comparison, the same search for the 1901 census returns 9880 names. Part of the explanation lies in the fact that Ancestry has yet to finish indexing the 1911 census for England, claiming a worthy 75 percent coverage so far. While this explains part of the discrepancy, the above shows that it can only be a small part of the cause.

Another example confirms that Ancestry’s database appears to be in a mess. My great-grandfather, Richard Nash who was born in Begelly, was living in Newcastle upon Tyne in Northumberland at the time the 1911 census was taken. I can find him searching on Ancestry by entering “Richard” and “Nash” with “Northumberland” for his county of residence. The search returns just two “Richard Nash” and my ancestor is one of these. That is good. But try searching for surname “Nash” with “Pem*” in the “County or island” of birth. He does not appear.

Has anyone else encountered problems such as these?


** you will need to be a subscriber to Ancestry to follow these examples.

One thought on “A Problem with Ancestry.co.uk and the 1911 census?

  1. There seems to be a much greater problem than this with Ancestry’s rendition of the 1911 Census. None of the RDs in Glamorganshire which eventually (1921) became “Port Talbot” (Aberavon, Baglan Lower, Margam or Michaelston Lower) can be searched, either under Glamorganshire or under Port Talbot. (I agree that you would not expect “Port Talbot” to be on the 1911 Census, but you would expect its component RDs to be listed/searchable under Glamorganshire).
    Sorry that this comment refers to another county, but its my current “pet hate”.

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