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1921 UK Census substitute

Addressing where they were in 1921


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Harry Gordon Selfridge

Finding where our ancestors lived in the years after the 1911 census can be a challenge. It requires us to turn to alternative records, and some of the best for this purpose are the Trade, Residential and Telephone Directories. Using TheGenealogist's Master Search to look for householders in these directories returns us many names from that time - some of whom are still famous today.

In this record set we can discover Harry Gordon Selfridge, founder of Selfridge's department store; Jesse Boot, who set up Boots the Chemist; Winnie-the-Pooh's author A. A. Milne; J.M. Barrie, who created the characters Peter Pan and Wendy; plus the celebrated economist, John Maynard Keynes.

American entrepreneur, Harry Selfridge, was recorded in 1921 as living at 30 Portman Square, just a two minute stroll away from his flagship West End store on Oxford Street. By also using the 'Business Name' search facility we can go on to find a number of Selfridge's stores in other locations that were recorded in these directories.

Two or three miles to the south of Selfridge's Marylebone home, in the district that includes Westminster Abbey and the House of Parliament, was the London home of Sir Jesse Boot at 32 Smith Square.

A further search shows us that the chemist and retailer, Sir Jesse, also had a house at Millbrook on the Channel Island of Jersey, where his wife Florence came from. The Business Search reveals that, in the island's town of St Helier, not only did their company have a chemist and druggist shop that dealt in photographic materials and apparatus, but that they also operated an outlet in the railway station on the now defunct Jersey Railway line. This second shop is listed in the Kelly's Directory of Channel Islands under the Booksellers category, reminding us that the Boot's company was once very much concerned with the selling of reading material, as well as medicine.

One of the innovations that Florence, the daughter of a Jersey stationer and bookseller, had encouraged her husband to introduce to his stores in 1898 were paid lending libraries. Usually situated at the back of a Boot's shop, where customers had to walk past all the other merchandise on offer, users could pay 2d a copy to borrow books. The 1921 era saw a number of classic tales penned and so we can use these directories to find where some of the authors resided.

Sir Jesse Boot's London address in Post Office London Street Directory 1921

Some results, such as that for Sir Jesse Boot's home in Jersey and London include maps

In 1921 Winnie-the-Pooh author, A. A. Milne, was living at 11 Mallord Street in Chelsea. Though most of us know him today by his initials and surname alone, his first and middle names are revealed in the Post Office London Street Directory 1921 as being Alan Alexander.

Fellow author of children's tales, J.M. Barrie, is listed at Adelphi Terrace House in Westminster. Barrie was the creator of Peter Pan whose adventures in Neverland with Wendy are a classic story that is as much loved today as it was then. The writer, who had been made a baronet in 1913, can be found in these records under his full name and title of Sir James Matthew Barrie.

Search result for Sir James Matthew Barrie at Adelphi Terrace House

J.M.Barrie (via Wikimedia Commons)

Another published author who was to have a massive effect on the world, though not for fictional tales for children, was John Maynard Keynes. His specialism was in the formulation of ideas that would fundamentally change the theory and practice of macroeconomics and the economic policies of governments until it was challenged by Monetarism. In the 1920s decade John Maynard Keynes published his academic works and wrote articles as a journalist that he was able to sell internationally. The same year that these directories were published, 1921, Keynes brought out his book A Treatise on Probability - though he had actually written it before the First World War. It was also this year that he fell in love with Lydia Lopokova, a well-known Russian ballerina. Lydia was one of the stars of Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and the two were to marry four years later in spite of Keynes maintaining an affair with a younger man over the course of his courtship with the dancer.

John Maynard Keynes, 1st Baron Keynes of Tilton, and Lydia Lopokova

46 Gordon Square, WC1, Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

A search of TheGenealogist's Trade, Residential and Telephone directories finds three addresses for Keynes. Firstly he is listed as the Secretary of the Royal Economic Society on the Strand in London. Also he has an entry for his university address at King's College in Cambridge, and there is also his home address at 46 Gordon Square, London, WC1. If you head to Gordon Square today you will find that it has a blue plaque to celebrate the fact that Keynes once lived there.

The London Post Office Directory 1921

These directories on TheGenealogist cover the majority of the country's population and they make excellent census substitutes to find ancestors that were the heads of households in 1921.


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New Diamond Package Offer!

We'd like to offer you our new 4 monthly Diamond subscription for our introductory price of only £39.95 (saving a third off the standard price of £59.95). This is the lowest cost Diamond subscription we've ever had!

12 Month subcription to Discover Your Ancestors Online MagazineAlong with providing access to Census, BMDs, Non-Conformist Records, Wills and more, the Diamond subscription gives you access to record collections that make it easy to find so much more about your ancestors.

You'll also enjoy a free 12 month subscription to Discover Your Ancestors online magazine worth £24.95, saving you a total of £44.95!

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