For those of you who watched my Legacy Family Tree webinar last night on Searching for Surnames: Challenges, Pitfalls and the Downright Ridiculous, I shared my favourite find in the census returns to date.
On the face of it, the 1851 census for Oxford Road in Reading (Source: HO107/1692/219/19) seems normal – Henry F. Ellis, his wife Ann, and a number of children:
It is not until you look at the next few columns that you spot a few ‘different’ entries. In the ‘relation to head of household’ column, Ann is referred to as ‘fruitful wife’ and vertically it is stated that the children are ‘olive branches around the table’. Under condition, whereas usually the enumerator would write ‘married’, ‘unmarried’, ‘single’, ‘widowed’ or similar, in this case it is stated, ‘I believe any Daughters are Girls & presume any Sons are Boys.’
The occupations bring yet more joviality from the Oxford Road household. Ann – the fruitful wife – is in charge of ‘Household and maternal cases’ with Mary and Ann, their ‘parents housemaid’. Henry does ‘much work’ but for ‘little pay’ (poor chap) and John ‘helps brother and plays with the others’. Charles goes to school – “whistling as he goes” … with the youngest boys, Thomas and Edwin, both at home, the latter ‘nurses tenderly’ at just four months.
And in the ‘whether blind or deaf and dumb’ column is written: ‘Can hear the church bells. Talks to herself and wears specs when daylight grows dim!‘ I am not sure who this comment refers to as the text fills all the rows within the column for the individuals residing in the household. A rare example of a census entry before 1911 which certainly shows the true character of the residents of the household….