Page last updated at 01:19 GMT, Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Privacy laws delay online census

Handwritten census form
Handwritten forms from England and Wales will be on the site

People hoping to trace their Scottish roots through the online publication of the 1911 census will have to wait until 2011 due to privacy laws.

It comes as data from England and Wales is published for the first time on the National Archive website.

It is thought the information will be of interest to amateur genealogists.

But a spokesman for the General Register for Scotland said Scottish personal census records were exempt from disclosure for 100 years.

He said: "So while the English 1911 census is being made available, the same does not apply to information in the Scottish census.

"This strikes a balance between the interests of the records to family historians and the privacy of the people recorded by the census, some of whom will still be alive.

"People who filled in the 1911 census were promised confidentiality. Although that is a long time ago, it is important not to call into question the validity of the equivalent promise on modern census forms."

It seems a bit of a nonsense that the details for England and Wales are going online, while Scotland's details are being kept under wraps until 2011
Sheila Duffy
Genealogist
About 36 million records of people living in England and Wales in 1911 will be on the site, showing original entries, in the householders' own handwriting.

Sheila Duffy, genealogist and editor at the Glasgow and West of Scotland Family History Association, said she was disappointed people wanting to find details about their Scottish ancestors would have to wait.

She said: "It seems a bit of a nonsense that the details for England and Wales are going online, while Scotland's details are being kept under wraps until 2011.

"I cannot imagine what sensitive information could be contained in this census that people would really want kept quiet now. Also, if people really want to find out details, there are other avenues they can go down. There will be a huge amount of interest when this goes online."

The decision to put the English and Welsh data online was made by the Information Commissioner. The census in Scotland is devolved to the Scottish Parliament.



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