Today is census day. For the first time ever we have had the choice of completing the traditional paper form or filling the census in online. As I live so much of the rest of my life online, I chose the latter. It was a very easy experience, although it did make me laugh when I was asked to confirm the marital status of my two children!
I’ve read a couple of comments recently that implied that the 2011 census might be the last one, so I decided to do a little bit of research and see if there was any truth in this rumour. I managed to find articles on both the BBC News site and the Telegraph online dating back to last July that seem to corroborate the idea – the Telegraph is a bit more definitive in its reporting than the BBC, but both articles carry the same message – that alternative means of gathering the census are being looked in to.
This makes me sad. I know from watching “Who do you think you are?” (one of my favourite television programmes) how important the census data is for tracing personal family history. My Mum has done a lot of research into our family tree, and the data she has found from the census is fascinating. More importantly than that, the census data is used by the government, and many other organisations, for policy decisions. This year the Humanist association have had a big campaign urging people to fill the religion question in accurately, as this information (for example) is used to justify the teaching of the Christian faith in schools.
Yes, I’m sure a lot of this data is held already on various databases. But I somehow doubt that it is so complete and so accurate. And, quite frankly, to many of us (myself included) there is something almost ceremonial about completing the census form. We only do it every 10 years, which is a big enough time lapse for some really significant events to have occurred. This census is the first one that has contained my son and my daughter, and, on a sadder note, the first one that will not contain any mention of my father-in-law. I for one like taking stock of my family situation every 10 years, and I really hope the census does continue.