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Time collapsed as I saw how my grandad lived a century ago. History turned intimate | David Olusoga

Offered an early preview of the just-released 1921 census, the historian found himself overcome by details of his forebears’ lives Last summer, I visited a facility run by the Office for National Statistics, a place in which the raw material of history was in the final stages of being made ready for public release. The centre of operations was a large, open-plan office, one half dominated by tall metal racks on which hundreds of large boxes were stored, the other filled with rows of desks on which digital scanning equipment had been set up. There the 1921 census for England and Wales, all 38m entries, held in 30,000 bound ledgers, was being digitised and conserved. My visit took place in the final, scaled-back weeks of a colossal process that had begun three years earlier. The team from the genealogy company Findmypast and the National Archives had almost finished their work and there was a palpable sense of anticipation. Last week, the fruits of those three years’ work were released. Continue reading...

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