At long last, and after a vociferous and
spirited debate on the validity of paying to view
the public records which until now have been
free, the digital version of the 1901 census
returns will be available on January 2 on the
Internet. Use of the index will be free, and it
will be possible to conduct a number of searches:
by name, place, address, institution or vessel.
Wildcards for single or multiple characters may
be used and a soundex match to identify names
with similar phonetics, such as Brown and Browne
will also be available. However, charges will be
made for viewing the digital pages of the returns.
The Public Record Office has set the charges at
75pence for an image of the census page. Viewing
the details of an individual will cost 50pence
but viewing the details of a household will be an
additional 50pence. Credit cards may be used to
view the pages, but a more flexible method to pay
will be the prepaid voucher scheme. The vouchers
will be obtainable in units of £5, £10 and £50.
Credit card payments are only valid for 48 hours
but vouchers have a six-month life span. While
the charges may seem high frequent visits to the
Family Records Centre in London would soon cost
more than the PRO fee.
The Society intends to make the prepaid
vouchers available from the Bookstall in
denominations of £5 and £10. If you would like
to purchase any number of vouchers send a cheque,
made payable to BFHS, to the BFHS Bookstall,
Research Centre, Yeomanry House, 131 Castle Hill,
Reading RG1 7TJ.
In addition the Research Centre will be
holding a series of Internet evenings for members.
The first will be held on Tuesday, 15th January,
2002. <For current information (May 2003) on
computing activities see www.berksfhs.org.uk/compgroup/computingactivities.htm>.
One final, and exciting, prospect is that the
PRO is planning to digitize the 1891 census and
it will be made available on a county by county
basis beginning with London. It's expected that
the whole country will be completed by the end of
2002. There are also plans to do the same for the
1881 census. The images are already being scanned
and they will be linked to the Federation of
Family History Societies database with a possible
launch at the end of 2002.