Every ten years since 1801 (excluding 1941 due to the World War which was being fought at the time), a census has been taken. The first one to be of real value to the genealogists amongst us is the 1841 census. However, it can often be more than a little infuriating…..
Taken on the night of 6 June in England, Wales, Scotland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, it was the first census conducted by the General Register Office. Names of each individual in a household or institution were recorded, along with the place they lived (often very vague), their age (frequently rounded), gender, occupation (if they could be bothered) and birth county (born in county? Yes or No).
Of course, we appreciate that the census was not taken for the benefit of the genealogists of the future but for statistical purposes. The enumerators were educated enough to be able to write but their handwriting is not always easy to read. Those who used the schedules to tally up whatever they were tallying should certainly have been asked to use a thinner pencil/pen and avoid obliterating the text they were crossing through.
When we are searching for our ancestors, we generally have a rough (or even exact) birth/baptism date/year and so, rounding to the nearest five years of age ain’t helpful in anyone’s books …. and quite frankly, the closed question of “Were you born in this county?” is the most infuriating of all, especially if your ancestor happens to depart this life before the ruddy 1851 census is taken (how jolly inconsiderate). If they weren’t born in county, the nation is your oyster…. where do you begin?
Thankfully, in 1851, more sensible recording took place but that doesn’t help for Humphrey Sillifant who only appears in the 1841 census, dying just shortly before the 1851 census. He is known to have been born ‘in county’ (Devon) but the parish of his birth/baptism has yet to be deduced. Further to this, last night saw a conversation with a friend of FWL about their direct ancestor, Abraham Carrington, born 1786 and NOT in the county of Middlesex (according to the 1841). He also died in early 1851…. now where did he come from?
Time machine needed….