The first results from the England and Wales 2021 census shine a light on what our lives look like now but what about 100 years ago?

The 1921 census was revealed to the world earlier this year- detailing the lives of our ancestors during a fascinating and turbulent period in history.

The most recent census will be used by organisations to calculate economic growth and unemployment as well as plan schools, health services and transport links.

Meanwhile, the 1921 version - which is now available to view via Findmypast - gives us a snapshot of what life was like across the two nations for 38 million people on June 19, 1921.

The Northern Echo: Census 2021. Credit: PACensus 2021. Credit: PA

If you're interested in uncovering details of your own family tree or history was your favourite subject in school, here's how you can delve into the records which have been locked in vaults for 100 years.

How to buy the 1921 census as the 2021 England and Wales census is released

You can spot a number of famous names and their families in the 1921 census including the prime minister David Lloyd George and King George V.

There is even a one-year-old Thomas Moore – who would find fame a century later as NHS fundraiser Captain Sir Tom during the pandemic.

The census also exposes the grim reality of post-First World War Britain, amid crippling unemployment and social unrest, a changing jobs market, and a shortage of suitable housing leaving whole families packed into one-bedroom properties.

How to view the 1921 census online

The 1921 census is available online at findmypast.co.uk as well as in person at the National Archives in Kew, the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, and the Manchester Central Library.

Findmypast said the 1921 Census will not immediately be free to view - but you can access it via any subscription, including libraries. 

Findmypast and the National Archives worked together to conserve, transcribe and scan the 1921 census - consisting of more than 30,000 volumes of delicate original documents.

It costs £2.50 for every record transcript and £3.50 for every original record image.

If you are a 12-month Pro subscriber there is a 10% discount on any 1921 Census purchases.

Find out more via the Findmypast website.

What does the 1921 census tell us?

While basic details of the 1921 census were released shortly after its compilation, the digitised records offer the first glimpse at individual returns.

Audrey Collins, a historian at the National Archives, said: “We can actually see at first-hand peoples’ quite heartfelt comments. You don’t protest about something if you’re just a little bit irritated; these are real cries from the heart.”

She added: “Undoubtedly, things were very, very grim for an awful lot of people in the 1920s.

The Northern Echo: Instructions on how to complete the 1921 census are included in one of the 30,000 volumes of original documents (Findmypast/PA)Instructions on how to complete the 1921 census are included in one of the 30,000 volumes of original documents (Findmypast/PA)

“There were an awful lot of people out of work, and that didn’t really get better over the coming decade.

“So I think 1921 is very much a good survey of what the population was settling down to after the rigours of the First World War, but also it was the shape of things to come in the 1920s.”

The impact of the First World War is large across the millions of census pages, which genealogy website Findmypast and the National Archives have spent three years conserving and digitising.

The census reveals there were 1,096 women for every 1,000 men recorded, the highest discrepancy since the census began in 1801, and by 1951 was still 1,081 per 1,000 men.

The Northern Echo: Laura Gowing, a Findmypast technician, scanning individual pages of the 30,000 volumes of the 1921 census (Mikael Buck/Findmypast/PA)Laura Gowing, a Findmypast technician, scanning individual pages of the 30,000 volumes of the 1921 census (Mikael Buck/Findmypast/PA)

This means that in 1921 there were around 1.7 million more women than men in England and Wales, the largest difference ever seen in a census, underlining the deadly significance of the First World War on men.

Indeed the population grew by just 4.9% between 1911 and 1921, to 37.9 million, having previously seen a double-digit increase every decade since records began.

The 1921 census is more detailed than any previously undertaken, having asked people about their place of work, employer and industry for the first time, meaning high street names such as Sainsbury’s, Rolls-Royce and Selfridges appear on its pages.

Unlike in previous years, people were also able to declare their marital status as “divorced”, with more than 16,000 people doing so.

However, this figure is expected to be much lower than the actual number due to the stigma surrounding divorce at the time.

Mary McKee, Findmypast census expert, described the careful handling and digitisation of more than 18 million pages of census documents as “three years of a labour of love”.

She added: “In terms of the national story, I think it’s going to be impressive what you can find in these records.

“But the other side of it is learning more about our own unique family stories and those individual stories that are found in each individual document.”

When will the next census be released?

The Northern Echo: Census 2021 letter. Credit: PACensus 2021 letter. Credit: PA

The next census to be released will be the 1951 census in January 2052, according to Findmypast.

The 1931 census was taken in April 1931 but destroyed in a fire in 1942 at the Office of Works - meanwhile, there was no census in 1941 due to the Second World War.

The census has been completed every 10 years since 1801, although documents are legally required to remain secret for 100 years.

The most recent census for England and Wales was sent to households in March 2021.

Data from the 2021 census for England and Wales will be published in stages over the next two years, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The first release of results from Census 2021 will be on Tuesday, June 28 2021 at 11 am.

Future releases will include figures on ethnicity, religion, the labour market, education and housing plus – for the first time – information on UK armed forces veterans, sexual orientation and gender identity.