WW1 and the Census

Preparations are now under way for Scotland’s Census 2021 but a hundred years ago the First World War had a dramatic impact on the people who planned and delivered the census in 1921.

This photo shows Census staff in 1911 in what is now the Archivist’s Garden between General Register House and New Register House in Edinburgh.

The largely male staff of the 1911 census
The staff of the 1911 Census, pictured in what is now the Archivists’ Garden between General Register House and New Register House in Edinburgh

 

The 1921 photo was taken on the steps of George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh

The staff of the 1921 Census - including many more women than the 1911 Census.
The staff of the 1921 Census – including many more women than the 1911 Census.

The two pictures reflect a direct consequence of the First World War when women entered the workplace in large numbers, many for the first time, releasing men to go to war.  Some worked in occupations never previously done by women on the railways, in shipyards, munitions’ factories.  After the war – when the men returned – some left their employment but many remained in work. One such work opportunity – the decennial Census.

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