Thursday, 29 March 2007

I was very, very drunk....

I understand that the Right Honourable Tony Blair, MP has now written to all those who petitioned him for the early release of the 1911 UK census.

It will come as no surprise to those who know me that Bill Blunt did not lend his signature to that particular campaign. So far as I am concerned, those who completed the census did so in the firm belief that the information they submitted would be safe from prying eyes for 100 years.

My great aunt Dorothea was a prominent member of the Suffragette movement. As I understand it, family lore has it that she spent the evening of Sunday, 2 April 1911 in a Soho speakeasy. This has since been confirmed by no other authority than Wikipedia, who report that:

The Women's Freedom League, a suffragette organisation campaigning for female suffrage in the United Kingdom, organised a boycott of the 1911 census, and women were encouraged to go to all-night parties or to stay at friends' houses in order to avoid completing the census.

As far as I'm concerned, that's her business. And for once, I'm glad to say, HM Gov seem to support my view.

Here's what Tony Blair had to say:

It is for this reason that there is a policy of a 100-year delay before releasing the personal data in the census. The purpose is to minimise the risk of embarrassment both to those living and to their immediate descendants.

I for one don't wish to know what Great Aunt Dorothea got up to in Soho, on that steamy, sultry night in April 1911.

And I can't think why anyone else might want to, either.

In truth, the risk of embarrassing any one of the 42 million people who were enumerated in 1911 is just too great.

Let's just let it lie.

1 comment:

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

I'm afraid I must (not for the first time) disagree with you here, Bill.
The hobby of family istory is far more important than any consideration of the public's trust in the census process.
People may well have been given the impression that the details they submitted were, in fact confidential.
But that was well before the (frankly unanticipated) development of a widespread interest in family history. There's a deal of money to be made from the early release of this data.

Kind Regards