The order of scanning and our unintentional North/South divide
We’ve received many comments on this blog and through the surveys expressing disappointment at the lack of northern English and Welsh counties during the beta period. We’d like to reassure you that this is not intentional!
We’ve been scanning and transcribing the census in order of National Archives catalogue piece number. Broadly, this was originally dictated by the civil servants of the time who ordered the numbering system so that it started in London, moving outwards and upwards through the English counties, then the Welsh counties, and finally the islands and military establishments. This is the order in which the records will be released on 1911census.co.uk in 2009.
Incidentally, the original documents are also stored in this order at the National Archives, so we have been working our way through the two kilometres (or one and a quarter miles in old money) of shelving that these records take up. The records take an enormous amount of time to prepare using hundreds of staff – the 1911 census is eight times larger than previous censuses as it is the only census to date where the household schedules have been preserved. We still have a long way to go until scanning is complete – we will continue to work at The National Archives well into 2009 to finish the image scanning and we then still have the job of transcribing the remainder of the census.
Unfortunately the early timing of the beta test means that the counties available are inevitably concentrated in the south, but we wanted to be able to test the site as early as possible with a reasonable number of records available.
The counties available during beta is restricted to those for which all pieces have been fully scanned and transcribed and which have had personal details redacted (removed) from the images. This is the reason that some southern counties are still not available – we are still in the process of redacting the images or completing the entire county. They have also been selected to give a good balance of urban and rural counties in order to test the address search functionality.
Our policy is to release only complete counties (as defined by The National Archives catalogue for boundaries) to avoid confusion .
Inevitably, in a project of this size some counties have to come later than others, unless we’d taken the rather cruel decision to wait until absolutely everything was complete before letting people take a look, but this would have been contrary to the spirit of the Information Commissioner’s ruling that the records should be made available as soon as possible. Everyone should be satisfied in 2009, rather than having to wait until the original opening date of January 2012.
We hope you’ll bear with us as we continue the project and that the wait for northern counties, Wales and the islands and military records will be worth the wait.