More address search tips

Address searching often requires a degree of lateral thinking to get the best results. Here’s a few extra tips and also some new features on the horizon which aim to make your searching easier. The post below is based in replying to questions from a customer searching in Dorking, Surrey but the points apply equally to addresses across the country.

The source of address details on the census is that taken from the original form filled in by the householder (this contrasts with previous censuses, where the forms were compiled by the enumerator, thus introducing some level of standardisation in recording). Unfortunately, several factors conspire to make the historical document problematic for finding addresses using 1911 census returns. 

The first is that in 1911, the concept of a full postal address with a number and street was less evolved than it is today. Many houses simply carried names and householders would then place the town afterwards. To take an example, looking at modern-day Pixham Lane in Dorking, Surrey, the majority of the houses carried names but most householders simply included their postal address as “name of house, Dorking” and this is the information that we transcribe. Unfortunately this was compounded by the small space on the original form left for the address, meaning the householder would often abbreviate the address to make it fit. Have a look at an example of an Original Page to see how small the space was for your ancestors to enter their address. 

The second is that many householders used abbreviations for words (as we do today), such as “Rd” for “Road”. Again using an example of Lincon Road in Dorking (around the corner from Pixham Lane) if you search for “Lincoln” on its own in Dorking, Surrey all 44 properties are returned sequentially, some listed as “Lincoln Road” others as “Lincoln Rd”. Try searching for just the first part of the address and leaving off lanes, Roads, Crescents etc, but narrow the search area by county and district first.

We will be applying many data enhancements and standardisation processes over the coming months to compensate for these common inconsistencies in the originals and to make the data more easily searchable. However, the transcriptions are in this case accurate based on the original documents. To get the best out of any historical document, a degree of lateral thinking often has to be applied. 

Thirdly, place names and spellings change: in the case above, Pixham had an alternative spelling of “Pixholme” and 35 properties are found in Dorking under this listing. If you can find contemporary maps of the area you are searching, either online or in local libraries and archives, these can prove useful as the name today may be utterly different.

 Finally, with 8 million different sets of handwriting, deciphering becomes extremely difficult and what may appear to be transcription errors (and in some cases are) occur. Thus we found one property transcribed as “Pischolme”. However, when examining the householder’s writing, the awful way he had formed the X would lead any person to transcribe it this way.

 We are working on a number of ways to make searching by address simpler in face of the difficulties posed by the original records, but the unique nature of the 1911 census means these methods have had to be worked out afresh for this census, and the census is very much work in progress, although to date hundreds of thousands of researchers have successfully used the service to identify the records they want to view.

 As well as applying many enhancements to the data to attempt to smooth over the inconsistencies of our ancestors, we will also release the RG78 Enumerators Summary Books soon (current estimate is April), which list the households and heads in each area: this information is invaluable for identifying neighbouring houses when the address information left by our ancestors makes this hard to recover. If you have already paid to view a household image, you will be able to view the linked Enumerators images for free, by returning to your saved records. You will not be required to make further payment to view these.

We will also be adding a wildcard search to the street field to allow you to search laterally and many more data standardisations will be applied over the coming months.

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30 Responses to “More address search tips”

  1. John UK Says:

    The enumerator should have filled the address in on the outside of each Schedule. This may well produce more consistent addresses for each street.
    John UK

  2. Phill Allen Says:

    Can someone here help?! I have tried on nearly a dozen occasions to get assistance from someone at the 1911Census main page but get constantly fobbed off.

    I am trying to search the history of my house, and I believed that I had tracked down the first occupant who owned the land on which the house was built. A name search on this person shows that they didn’t live where I thought, but at “2 MARKET ST, Penistone”.

    However I am now stuck……Searching for ANY address in the district of Penistone returns absolutely no results whatsoever, even wildcard searching Penistone returns nothing, despite there clearly being records for Penistone under the name search.

    Can anyone please help me here?


  3. iantester Says:

    @Phill: I have flagged this with the data team - I cannot find anything there either but plenty in the districts either side.

    @John: we will be merging data from the various address fields soon. This will improve searchability.

  4. Phill Allen Says:


    Thanks - thought I was going mad!

  5. iantester Says:

    @Phill: no problem - apologies for the fact that you were fobbed off - I will have words. Do always let us know of you find what seem to be data issues - if we know, we can investigate!

  6. Phill Allen Says:

    @Ian: Think the problem was they were classing it as a specific search issue rather than a data problem - although in every case I raised I stressed it was a data error rather than a user one :-) Thanks again. Please keep me posted if they come up with anything, hopefully it will be something simple in the database.

  7. More on the 1911 census…. « The Wandering Genealogist Says:

    [...] don’t appear to be available yet but the 1911 census blog ( gives some detail of these records: As well as applying many enhancements to the data to attempt [...]

  8. Richard Says:

    Please can you specify what to expect from using the ‘Year of marriage’ as a selection criterion.
    If I put in a selection of say 1910, I would have expected this to give the result of just the husband and wife who married in the previous year.
    However, the result gives a lot of children as well, most older than one year old. Are these the children of previous marriages of one of the parents? Certainly there are more children listed than I would have considered reasonable.

  9. iantester Says:

    @Richard: sounds odd. Can you let me know the specific details of the search you performed and we will look into it.

  10. Richard Says:

    The search I did was:
    Last name - Dinsdale Exact
    Year of marriage - 1910 Exact
    County - Yorkshire West Riding
    District - Knaresborough
    This gives 22 results, with ages varying from children to adult.

  11. AF Says:

    A Question
    How to find out the name of an institution WITHOUT spending 30 credits on each page to find a page with the address on, as there is no indication of how many “inmates” are at the institution.
    Perhaps a note should be placed on each page from the institution so credits do not need to be wasted.

    Any help appreciated

  12. Richard Says:

    Are you able to confirm the problem I had in searching using the year of marriage?
    I gave the example only to illustrate the problem. The real problem I have is that I have an ancestor John Smith who I suspect was living somewhere in Yorkshire. I don’t know his birth date, but I am aware of his approximate year of marriage. It would be very useful to have the year of marriage as a search criteria, so I do not have to incur lots of wasted credits on many John Smiths that are not to do with my ancestor.

  13. Phill Allen Says:

    @iantester: Ian - any news on my earlier query about the lack of results for Penistone - still nothing showing at all? thanks

  14. iantester Says:

    @Phill - have just chased the data team again.

  15. iantester Says:

    @Richard: The YOM search appears to be sick: again waiting on an update but have chased.

  16. iantester Says:

    @Phill - we have found the problem - there is a small isolated problem with address searches for the West Yorks districts of Penistone and Wortley which we are fixing now. The data will be available to search once we perform our next data upload - unfortunately this is unlikely to be until we release the next counties in a few weeks time.

    Thanks for letting us know - we hope to have this fixed and live on the site soon.

  17. Phill Allen Says:

    @Ian - thanks for your perseverence, I’ll keep checking back!

  18. Richard Says:

    Any news on the Year of Marriage search, please?
    I guess that this is either a bug in the search engine, which may be relatively easy to fix, or a problem with the data populating the year of marriage field on the database, which would probably be a mega task to cleanse the data and reload.
    Either way, could you please give a target date for fixing, please?

  19. Richard Says:

    I think that you must be doing something to correct this, as the results are different from how they were when I reported the error.
    Currently, the results seem to give all married couples, irrespective of the year that they were married. So the results are the same quoting any YOM.
    Any idea when the error will be completely corrected, please?

  20. iantester Says:

    @Phil - just to confirm that Penistone data is now fixed and searchable (has been for a few weeks)

  21. Ian Thirlwell Says:

    I have an original image of just two people in the household: a spinster & her neice. The address box has two postal addresses, different streets, entered. I am looking forward to the relevant RG78 to see what the summary book contains. Is there any info on the availability of these? The last I saw was an estimate of April.

  22. Ian McHenry Says:

    As Ian Thirwell suggests, it’s all gone quiet on the RG78 etc release - last estimate was April.

    It’s now June and, though much was trumpeted in the early days about just how much information we would get for the high unit cost, no sign of anything yet.

    An update would be welcome and appreciated.

  23. iantester Says:

    @ian - updates are available on other threads on the blog.

  24. Richard Says:

    Any news on the Year of Marriage search, please

  25. Richard Says:

    Is there any news if / whether the Year of Marriage search will be fixed, please.
    This would really be a useful search.
    If it is not to be corrected, should the search menu be changed to remove this option?

  26. Richard Says:

    I reported an error in the search algorithm on March 11, relating to the fact that the Year of Marriage search was not working.
    Is there any update on whether this will be fixed, please. It would be a useful search algorithm.
    If you do not intend to correct this, would the search menu be changed to remove this option?

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