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For the first time, you can write a message for future generations on the Census

The Census will have a “time capsule” blank box on the form, where citizens can leave their mark, to be revealed in 100 years’ time.

Image: Sam Boal

THE CENTRAL STATISTICS Office has included a new, “exciting” option in the Census 2021 form – an option for each citizen in the country to include their own personalised message which will be locked away for 100 years.

For the first time, the Census will have a “time capsule” blank box where citizens can leave a voluntary message as part of the form – which won’t be released publically for another 100 years.

At the moment, each Census form is kept locked away for a century, and then published afterwards for the public to see. 

“When we were thinking about it,” senior statistician with the CSO Cormac Halpin told TheJournal.ie, “we were cognisant that the public took to the 1901 and 1911 Census forms that were available on the National Archives website, to see the physical handwriting of their ancestors.”

“We wanted to give people the opportunity to include things that the Census doesn’t capture… and get more colour than just the statistics. We want people to feel free to put in whatever they want.” 

As far as the CSO are aware, no other country does this and this is a first.

“We think it’s pretty innovative, as far as we’re aware it hasn’t been done elsewhere, and people are very interested in it,” Halpin said. 

It brings a fun element to it, you can see it as a bit of a reward for filling the form out, and make your own mark. Whatever you want can go in there.

The ‘time capsule’ space will be on the same sheet of paper as the Census form, and not on a leaflet within it, meaning there’s no extra cost.

“If we were analysing the messages there would be an extra cost, but we won’t be doing anything with them. We’ll be concentrating on the inside form, and there will be a blank space on the back which will be protected by the 100 year rule.”  

The next census will take place on Sunday 18 April 2021. Eight new questions will appear on the form, which cover topics like working from home, renewable energy, and smoke alarms.

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