Posted by on 18 May 2012 in Site Features


In January, we began testing a new version of our image viewer to improve consistency and reliability for many different types of browsers, with a cleaner look and interactive features. It is a Flash based experience that provides tools to help you get the most out of census documents.  There are many new features but some of the most noticeable ones are the yellow and green highlights  over the person you are searching for and his or her household.  The viewer also offers brief narratives to explain the data in each column, deep zoom, and a transcribed name column on the left side of the image.

Thousands of members tried it out and sent us feedback and suggestions. Thank you very much!

Based on your feedback, we updated the viewer, added new features, and fixed some bugs too.  As of today, the interactive image viewer has become the primary viewer for the now completed 1911 UK Census.

What if you don’t have Flash installed?

The older viewers are still available.  If you try to view an image in the interactive viewer and you don’t have Flash, your previous default viewer will be offered instead.  If you are viewing images on a non-Flash enabled device such as an iPad, the non-Flash viewer will be automatically substituted.

Can you manually switch to a different viewer?

Yes, you can.   There is a link to switch to your previous default viewer located in the options menu under the actions button. If you previously turned off the interactive image viewer, you can turn it back on by clicking the Interactive Image link that appears in the upper right side of advanced image viewer.  Example below:

How can you send feedback?

Please use the “Send comments” link at the top of the viewer.

Thank you for your input and suggestions on the beta version of the interactive image viewer.  The feedback helped us improve the viewer.  We will continue to read your feedback and use it to improve Start searching the 1911 census now with the new interactive image viewer:



When, if ever, will the countless transcription errors in the 1911 census be corrected? It’s no good adding or having flashy new features if the basic material remains in an extremely poor and/or sub-standard condition.

The same applies for all previous censuses — they too have many many transcription errors which have never been corrected, although many years have passed they were first posted on this site.

Before even getting to use a new viewer, the first task for researchers is to actually find the people they are looking for in the census. Sometimes, this is almost impossible, considering the poor state of the transcriptions. For example, I’ve found many examples where the surname, age, gender, relationship and birthplace of a person in the census are all mistranscribed. It isn’t unusual to have the age wrong by 50 years! The birthplace can very often be a garbled collection of nonsense words or non-existent locations. Or historically inaccurate, eg. original entry clearly says Ceylon but transcription says Sri Lanka (which was not the name of this country until 1972). And try finding the number of people listed in the transcriptions who were apparently born in American Samoa…..then compare to what the original entry says.

Sorry to be beating this drum yet again but the basic problem on Ancestry (poor transcriptions) remains. It isn’t the “minor” problem mentioned by Ancestry months ago.

Also, there is no ongoing blog for posting about this problem because Ancestry cuts off discussion about any and every topic after two weeks, eg. this one is open for postings only until 1 June.

18 May 2012 at 8:22 pm

I agree with Andi. There is no point having these improvements when you can’t find the individuals -please note my grandfather cannot be found, he was on a naval vessel but he is there but not on ancestry’s transcription!. Why, for example, are people living in Exminster transcribed as living in Exminister (more akin to a tv programme) and people in Newton Abbot are not there but under Wolborough, which was the name of the street!. I was told by ancestry that they were finding the most-economical way of improving the transcriptions, in other words nothing. Incidentally there have been no improvements to the London electoral rolls ‘transcriptions’ and there have been I told complaints to the London Metropolitan Archives.

19 May 2012 at 10:03 am

Thank you, David. Unfortunately, whatever we say will almost certainly fall on deaf ears at Ancestry and, unfortunately, nothing will be done about the situation.

As to the new interactive image viewer, I’ve only had a very quick look at it today and, based on that, I will be sticking to the “old way” for now because I find it the most useful, at least for the time being.

And I would be interested to know what kind of feedback and comments Ancestry has been getting about the new viewer.

For a start, and just based on my own experience, at least some of what Ancestry says above (on this blog) is not correct and that just involves actually getting into any viewer at all, old or new. At least in my case. Perhaps the experience of other users has been different.

For example, Ancestry states that “…older viewers are still available. If you try to view an image in the interactive viewer and you don’t have Flash, your previous default viewer will be offered instead.”

This was not true in my cae, though. Maybe it’s true for those who have no Flash installed at all. However, I did have an earlier version of Flash installed, just not the updated one that the new viewer requires. Nevertheless, all I could access was a completely black screen, giving no other option but to install that latest version. Otherwise, I had no access at all to any of the census page images or to the transcribed pages.

I couldn’t see any way at all to even get to the “old” version of the viewer. However, Ancestry says “yes, you can” when answering the question of whether the user can “manually switch to a different viewer”. Again, maybe this is true if you have *no* version of Flash installed at all. But, again, if you have a previous version installed, as I did, I could not see how that might be done. The only way to access (as Ancestry says) “a link to switch to your previous default viewer located in the options menu under the actions button” is to install the latest version of Flash which Ancestry requires.

Which I did. Which made the black screen disappear and led me to the new interactive viewer. Which I tried for a while before switching back to the older viewer.

19 May 2012 at 8:18 pm

Absolutely spot on Andi!
With Ancestry it’s a case of “never mind the accuracy, look at all of the bells and whistles”!

20 May 2012 at 5:14 pm

Thank you, BroMaelor.

One small example to illustrate my point about the 1911 census transcription which lists a man whose name was apparently Hwe Muire, born in a place called Arrnerick.

What the original entry actually says, though, is Thos McGuire who was born in Limerick!

The very sad (and frustrating) thing is that there are thousands of other examples in all the UK censuses, up to and including the 1911.

22 May 2012 at 8:28 pm

I would say we are talking about a million errors. There are just simple basic errors but you will never be sure you have found all of the ancestors, even the ones transcribed in the census years after they died!.

22 May 2012 at 11:59 pm

Perhaps Ancestry should move their software team onto transcriptions???

24 May 2012 at 11:13 am