Above: my grandmother. She appeared in nine UK censuses, starting in 1901
We completed the 2011 UK census online last night. It felt odd but good to be taking part in this ancient ritual in such a modern way.
I've seen a lot of criticism of the census in the media. The usual civil liberties crowd have condemned the amount of personal information required. I can't see what the fuss is about: how can government plan for future services if it doesn't know anything about us?
The Office of National Statistics is obviously still coming to terms with online services. When we filled in the section about our two year old son, it asked for his marital status, and queried whether he looked after family members! (More sensibly, it didn't ask for employment details.)
For me, the census is a significant, even moving event. Almost 20 years ago, my grandmother appeared in her last census, the day before her 100th birthday on 22 April 1991. She was born 17 days after the 1891 edition, and first appears in the 1901 census for Cardiff, Glamorgan as Gwendoline Dymond, aged 9 years old. She would have taken part in 10 censuses had 1941's not been cancelled because of the second world war. It's very moving to be able to look her up in the 1901 census, which took place less than three months after Queen Victoria died, and two years before the first aeroplane flew.
Surprisingly, I have vivid memories of my first census in 1971. This is purely because my mother volunteered to help. She collected the forms in Whitton, Middlesex, and made sure people had returned their forms. (She complained that one nasty man was very aggressive.) But the main reason I remember the 1971 count was that it gave me time with my first love, Helen! I may have only been seven (Helen was about 18 months older), but I stayed the night at Helen's house while Mum was on census work; in return, Mum looked after Helen while her mother was on census duty. We moved back to Wales shortly after, but I still remember the special time Helen and I spent together thanks to that long-ago census!