Three DVDs provide images of the 1891 census pages for all of London (covering Public Record Office piece numbers RG12/1541), and another three show Lancashire (RG12/ 2898-3488). These images are also available on CD-ROM in boxed sets containing 38 and 33 disks respectively but the DVD saves a lot of disk swapping (Available from S&N Genealogy Supplies).
To view the disks you need a PC running Windows 95 or later, with at least 16 Mbytes of RAM and a DVD-Drive (or CD-ROM drive if the CD-ROM set has been purchased). The images are viewed using Adobe Acrobat version 4 or later and this is provided on the disks. The instructions say that the images can be viewed on Mac or Unix systems with the appropriate viewer.
Census CdsThe disks provide scanned images of the PRO street indexes. For each street within a section of the city, the appropriate piece numbers to be searched are listed. This is important when many streets went through a number of census districts. To effectively search you should have a street address or at least a section of the city to choose from. The residence of your ancestors may be obtained from a civil registration certificate or a city directory near 1891.
There is a master index for streets and institutions if you don't happen to know the district.
Without this information you may be reading the census page by page. To ease that problem a coordinated extraction program to create an everyname index is underway using volunteers. A partial name index for London has been released on CD-ROM with over 500,000 names on it. The index is ordered by surname, forename, age and place, and provides the Piece and Folio so you can find the exact page needed. On the Lancashire disks the larger communities with PRO-produced street indexes include them. The smaller communities must be read page by page.
The census images are bookmarked by piece number. You then search for the correct folio numbers that you obtained from the index, remembering that there are two pages in a folio. The census images are sized to fit the screen. This can make reading the writing a little difficult but the software allows for enlargement. Magnifications between 125 % and 300% seemed the best. Above 300% and the images begin to break down into individual pixels.
The printing process gives a clear image. However, be careful to print only the individual screen otherwise the whole piece number is printed which can be many pages. The printing is designed for British paper sizes so select the "size to fit" option before printing. When printed the source citations will need to be manually recorded as the PRO references have been eliminated in scanning.
S&N Genealogy Supplies is making images of original records available for home research in primary sources. These are a great bargain: it would cost over £5,000 to purchase the original microfiche copies for London only. Further counties and years are being scanned for release on both DVD and CD-ROM.