The 1901 British census is the most recent census available to the public. This census can be very helpful for British genealogy and is every-name indexed (meaning that every family member is included in the index, not just the head of household). Even better, it's available online! The only drawback to this otherwise great situation is that the census is pay-per-view, so you cannot see the images online unless you pay about $1.35 for each one. This can get expensive if you're not sure which image you want!
Here is what I have learned about how to keep this census as free as possible. Follow me as I go through a step-by-step "cheapskate" way to get family information from the online index (this is a real example, so go ahead and try it out):
1. Go to www.census.pro.gov.uk. This is the main 1901 census site.
2. Click on "person search" or "advanced person search" on the left-hand side.
3. Now, let's suppose you want to find Mary Hunt's family, who you know was the daughter of John and was born about 1875. You know she was probably in Denby, Derbyshire in 1901. Type in her surname and given name and at the bottom type "Denby" in the "place keywords" space.
4. After a few seconds, two possibilities are found for Mary Hunt. One is age 13 and other age 14. At this point you have no idea which one is correct, and don't want to pay to see both.
To save yourself from paying to see both images, here is the trick:
5. If you rest your mouse on the gold image icon (to the left of each name), you'll see a page identification number in the gray bar at the bottom of the page (make sure your scroll bar is moved all the way to the bottom or you may not see it). It's a long list of numbers mixed with letters.
6. Write down the page ID number for both Mary Hunts.
7. Now, go back to the search screen and do another search, changing Mary's name to John.
8. A couple of John Hunts come up, and again, when you rest your mouse over the image icon a page ID shows at the bottom of the screen. The page ID will be the same for each person listed on the same page, so the John with the same page ID as one of my Mary possibilities will most likely be the right one.
9. Sure enough, one of his ID numbers matches one of the Mary Hunts, and you've found the correct family.
10. You can take this even further and find out that John's wife was probably Agnes, and that they had eight other children with them besides Mary. All you have to do is enter a search for all Hunt names in Denby (the search often needs to be broken into male or female groups or it is too lengthy), and find those with the same page ID number. From the index itself you can learn each family member's age, birthplace, and occupation.
The only thing to be careful about is that if you close out the website and then re-enter, the page ID number changes. So, do your index searching in one search session.
One extra trick about payment:
When you do decide to look at an image online, you will be required to pay a minimum of £5 (about US$9.00). Each image is 75p (about US$1.35), so if you set your account at £5, at the end of the session you will have 50p left over that you won't be allowed to use. Set your session in increments of 75p (for £5.25, for example) and you won't lose money.
Good luck and happy AFFORDABLE hunting!