Having just submitted the census returns online for our household and my mother's, I thought it would be fun to look back at how some of my ancestors were recorded in the eight censuses from 1841 to 1911 which are now in the public domain. The examples I have chosen show how important census information is in tracing family history.
Please click on each of the images below to see a larger version.
6 June 1841 - Reaching right back to the 18th century
James, who was baptised in October 1757 was 83, and Elizabeth, who was baptised in July 1764, was 76. The census enumerator correctly rounded both their ages down to the nearest 5 years, as 80 and 75 respectively.
Because of their ages, this census enabled me to jump right back to the parish registers of the mid 18th century. Sadly, their extreme old age seems to have reduced them to want, as James' "profession, trade or employment" is given as "pauper". This reminds me that I must look at the local Poor Law records to see if James and Elizabeth were being given any form of outdoor relief.
30 March 1851 - A wealth of information, some of it misleading
This 1851 census entry is for my 2x great grandparents, Frederick and Charlotte Davis (nee Aves). They were living at Toll End, Tipton, Staffordshire. They were the schoolmaster and mistress at the church school in the newly created parish of St Mark's, Ocker Hill.
There is a lot of useful information here. The birthplaces of the children show how the family had moved around since Frederick and Charlotte married in 1842. Frederick's grandmother is living with them. There are two pupil teachers, one of whom had clearly been brought with them from their previous school in Willingale, Essex. Also in the household is the curate of the parish, Rev Joseph Brunskill, after whom two of Frederick and Charlotte's sons were named.
But there are also inaccuracies. Frederick was not born in the parish of St John, Westminster, Charlotte was actually 32 and it is highly likely that Frederick's grandmother was in fact his mother. Don't believe everything you read in the census.
7 April 1861 - Crucial information about employment and birthplaces
This census has proved absolutely crucial in tracing back both sides of the family. In 1851 George and Susannah only gave their county of birth. By 1871 they were both dead. Without this census, specifying the parishes of Ewell, Surrey, and White Roothing, Essex, I would have had no idea of where to look for their births. As it is, armed with this information, I have been able to find baptisms for both of them and the names of their parents.
In the two previous censuses, George's occupation was simply given as "warehouseman" but the 1861 census shows where he was employed - as a foreman at London's East and West India Docks. The records of these companies are preserved at the Museum of London Docklands and I am hoping they may include employment records for George.
2 April 1871 - A thriving business
This is the 1871 census entry for my 2x great-grandparents, William and Harriet Munden (nee Coles). They were living in Christchurch Street, Ringwood, Hampshire, with their four youngest children and a general servant.
William had made a remarkable rise from humble origins, as the son of a labourer and decoyman, to become a highly successful millwright and engineer. This census shows him when his business was at its peak. He was employing 30 men and 5 boys at his engineering works, which made all types of agricultural machinery, as well as supplying local mills with their mill wheels and other gear.
William's old workshops are now the premises of the Ringwood Brewery. The 1873 Return of Owners of Land shows that they covered almost 2 acres. When William died in 1900 he was described as a "gentleman" and left an estate worth around £1 million in today's money.
You can read the second part of this post here.