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  • Writer's pictureWendy Percival

Lost in the 1921 census

Have you dipped into the newly released 1921 census yet? Be warned! It can get addictive – not to mention expensive, even with the 10% discount for subscribers of Find My Past. And frustrating, too. Number One on my list of people to locate on the 1921 census, my great aunt, Mary Ann Diggory, who’s always been somewhat of a mystery, has come up “No Results”.

Left home at sweet 16

I’ve mentioned Mary Ann before – or Annie, as she was known. She allegedly walked out of the family home aged 16 and was “never seen again” until she was reunited with her youngest sister (my grandmother) in 1982 when Annie was in her nineties.

I’ve debunked that story to some extent. Yes, it appears Annie did leave home before the 1911 census but while she didn’t return to her family, she did come back to live with her aunt Mary Downes (nee Roberts), her mother’s older sister, around 1925 and also appears in photos of my dad when he was a toddler. So it may be that there was a further rift in the 1930s, as I never met her when I was growing up and the reunion with my grandmother in 1982, shortly before Annie died, was considered the first contact in many years, even if it wasn’t as many as the story suggested!

Where did Annie go?

Annie trained as a nurse in Redhill and Reigate Hospital between 1912 and 1915. According to records held by the Red Cross when she volunteered during WWII, she’d previously worked in hospitals in Canterbury and Eastbourne, before returning to Shrewsbury to live with her aunt. It was her nursing records which gave me her address in 1925.

I was hoping to find her on the 1921 census at one of the hospitals mentioned in the Red Cross notes but, as I said, I came up blank. Comments from other members of the genealogy fraternity on Twitter where their family members had failed to materialise, had some success by looking at known addresses. I searched for Annie’s aunt Mary and found her living in Bishop Street in Shrewsbury, where she and Annie had been living in 1925. However in 1921 Mary was there on her own and Annie was not listed. So Annie is definitely out there somewhere, perhaps in Canterbury, perhaps in Eastbourne… I’ll keep searching!

A different discovery

Meanwhile, I did discover another great aunt on the census, Hilda Victoria Griffiths, working in the admin office of a large hotel in Torquay, as a bookkeeper. The hotel – the Torbay Hotel – still stands today, though conversations on a Torquay Facebook group during 2020 speculated whether the hotel would survive the pandemic, with similar establishments closing everywhere due to their potential punters being in lockdown. However, I'm pleased to report that it did survive and should you fancy a trip to Torquay, you’ll find all the hotel's details on!

Have you found anything interesting about your family on the 1921 census yet?


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