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Getting started with records: census and BMDs - by our guest blogger David Annal


Published on 11 Apr 2013 13:25 : 56 comments : 15013 views

 

If family history research was simple, it probably wouldn’t be the fascinating hobby that it is.  The truth is that it's a highly complex and subtle research process. We need to develop an understanding of the records we use and explore ways of linking the vast range of available sources to uncover the hidden lives of our ancestors.

The two sets of records that most of us come across earliest in our research are the nineteenth and early-twentieth century census returns and the GRO (General Register Office)’s vast collection of birth, marriage and death certificates. 

The first national census of England, Wales and Scotland was taken in the year 1801 and there’s been a census every ten years since then (with the exception of 1941 when the country’s mind was on different matters). Ireland was covered from 1821 (but don’t get too excited – the Irish returns for 1821 to 1891 have not survived). It wasn’t until 1841 that the census became a truly useful tool for family historians. The 1841 census lacks the detail of its mid-to-late nineteenth century descendants but it’s still a vital source, including potentially crucial information about large numbers of people born in the middle of the previous century.

The classic Victorian census was born in 1851 when, for the first time, full genealogical details were recorded about the entire population of the country: names, ages, relationships, occupations and birthplaces are all there. The way our ancestors are bundled together in neatly packaged family groups makes it difficult for us to believe that the census wasn’t taken with us in mind!  

However, we need to understand the process that has lead to the census returns appearing on our computers today. It all started in the days leading up to census night when an army of enumerators, usually solicitors, accountants or poor law officials, appointed by the General Register Office for the specific task of collecting the census data, delivered a census schedule to every household in the country, explaining that the form needed to be completed on the designated day, and would be collected the following Monday. Once the forms had been gathered in, the enumerator embarked on the not-inconsiderable task of copying the details from the householders’ schedules into the summary books. These are the documents that we can see online today. 

It’s not hard to see how easy it would be for the enumerators to make mistakes when transcribing the data from one source to another. They were, after all, working in difficult conditions, without the benefit of electric lighting, and easily available reference sources, and with the distractions of everyday family life, in relatively cramped spaces, going on around them!

Even before the enumerators got hold of the forms, we need to question how accurate the information supplied by the householders might have been. Our ancestors had any number of reasons to be economical with the truth when it came to answering questions asked by a government of whom vast sections of the population would have had every cause to be suspicious! 

And finally, we have to consider (and perhaps doff our caps to) the modern transcribers. In undertaking the thankless task of attempting to decipher the scribbles and the sometimes virtually illegible handwriting of the nineteenth century enumerators, they have enabled us to search the census data online in ways which were simply unimaginable just twenty years ago.

Of all the pieces of information recorded by the census, the two which are most likely to end up ‘corrupted’ are surnames and birthplaces.  The range of first names available to our ancestors was relatively small and most are quite easily recognisable – even allowing for abbreviations such as ‘Jno.’ for John, ‘Wm.’ for William and ‘Thos.’ for Thomas: ages are usually easy to read, as are the names of their county of birth. So, if your initial searches fail to turn up the people you’re looking for, don’t assume that they’ve somehow been missed by the enumerators. Instead, allow for the possibility that the surname and/or the place of birth may have been misinterpreted somewhere along the line.

As well as organising the decennial census returns, the General Register Office was (and indeed still is) responsible for registering the births, marriages and deaths of the inhabitants of England and Wales. Starting on 1 July 1837 and continuing until the present day, the GRO has attempted to record the vital events of every person resident in the country and these records have traditionally provided family historians with the framework around which we can base all of our research.

Birth certificates name the child’s parents including, crucially, the mother’s maiden name.  Marriage certificates give the name of the bride and groom’s fathers (unfortunately English and Welsh marriage certificates don’t provide the mothers’ names) and although death certificates generally contain less information of a truly genealogical nature, they should certainly not be ignored.

Nowadays, thanks to the proliferation of online databases, finding birth, marriage and death certificates is a relatively straightforward process. Gone are the days of back-breaking, soul-destroying fifty year searches for a death record; or, for that matter, the searches for birth certificates under a dozen or so different spellings of the name. We can interrogate the databases using wildcards and other advanced techniques, and link marriage records to prove that our Mr Smith did indeed marry a Miss Brown.

Of course, we only have online access to the indexes (or digital equivalents of them).  In order to get the full details from the certificate, we still need to apply to the GRO for a certified copy.  This process takes time and is relatively expensive (certificates currently cost £9.25 each) but obtaining copies of relevant birth, marriage and death certificates is an essential part of any serious family historian’s armoury.  

In the early years (i.e. from 1837 until 1874) it was the responsibility of the registrars to ensure that all the births and deaths in their districts were registered.  By the terms of the 1874 Births and Deaths Act, the responsibility was transferred to the parents or next of kin but research has shown that the Act made no difference to the rate of registration.  After a short bedding-in period during which there was some resistance to the concept of civil registration (partly encouraged by the Church of England who saw it as a threat to their authority) by the late 1850s the system was as close to comprehensive as the General Register Office could have hoped. Since then, a small proportion of events (mainly births) has always gone unregistered but, more often than not, the failure to find the birth of an ancestor is most likely to be explained by the use of an ‘unexpected’ surname.

To be a good researcher, you need to be a detective. You need to look at the documents you uncover with a critical eye and continuously ask yourself whether you’re on the right lines.  Our ancestors were fallible individuals and the documents that record their lives are full of errors and inaccuracies. It’s only by approaching our research in this way that we can hope to paint an accurate picture of our ancestors’ live. As Sherlock Holmes said, ‘when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.’

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by Marilyn on 18 Apr 2013 18:00 :
Very interesting article especially as I am having great difficulty in tracing the birth (I have found both marriage and death) of one of my husband's ancestors born c1860. I have tried looking at "unexpected" surnames and first name but still with no result, however, I will not give up especially after reading your item.
:-)
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by kay on 18 Apr 2013 18:23 :
Very interesting.
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by Dawn on 18 Apr 2013 18:57 :
Very interesting but it seems impossible to find census records for 1841 for Ireland how do we find families there if we don,t have census records
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by Nicholas on 18 Apr 2013 19:31 :
On my Mother side, her Mother was a Wolliter. When I first saw this name I thought easy. My Grand Mother Was born Emma Wolliter, From that day she became Emily Woliter ( Note first name change also only one L in Wolliter. at her marrige father sister only use one L.

I think its important to remember spelling, that many could not read or write so the name Wolliter, is it with one or two LL. If you can not read with one L it may look correct.

Nick S Phillips :-) :-)
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by Kathleen on 18 Apr 2013 19:36 :
I have an instance where there are two or three possibilities and the only way to find the right person would be to order more than one certificate just to find which is the right one . This certainly would be costly

Kathleen
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by David on 18 Apr 2013 20:03 :
Mr. Annal says that the enumerators, ". . . delivered a census schedule to every household in the country, explaining that the form needed to be completed on the designated day, and would be collected the following Monday."
He doesn't explain what happened in the vast number of households where no-one was able to read or write.
An article on http://www.findmypast.co.uk/help-and-advice/knowledge-base/census/searching indicates that ' If the forms were not completed, the enumerators would question members of the household to get the required information from them.
Here is your first chance for error as the enumerator takes information from whoever happened to be home at the time -- perhaps a second wife who didn't really know when or where children of her husband were born and so on. Even the accent or dialect could impact the data. I have ancestors named Deakin who were recorded as Dakin, and if you come from Wolverhampton, you know how that happened!
David Williams
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by David on 18 Apr 2013 20:18 :
Transcribing onto the computer also introduced errors. One of my ancestors is quite clearly Michael Murphy on the original 1851 census document but appears as Nicholas Murphy on the Genealogist transcribed family. Moral? Also check the original document.
Dave Christopher
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by Linda on 18 Apr 2013 20:55 :
When ever possible, one needs to ensure that they check the actual written sheet.
Look at the neighbors and the spelling of names which may offer familiarization as families often lived close to each other. Also look for records that contain taxes for farm, horse land etc. I personally have found that libraries in the local areas are willing to give advice on various other forms of written documents that would have been collected in the day. Spelling of the surname can vary but the more you can actually physically see can give you many clues.
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by Bruce on 18 Apr 2013 21:38 :
A very interesting summary. Variants of spellings of surnames are a common problem (it took me ages to locate my great grandfather, Walter Douglas, in 1871 and 1881 because his name had been written as Duglas and Douglass!). I have one fascinating example from 1891 where a household included 3 surnames, all of which were spelt wrongly in the census. Mind you, the census was taken just after a family wedding, so someone's speech may have been unusually slurred!

Interested to know whether there are any particular points to look out for in relation to workhouse records - two of my great grandfathers had their births registered in workhouses and it is possible that a third may have done, but I have been unable to trace his birth registration (some time around 1851). Were there normally reasonable records of workhouse inmates, and if so how could I find out more?
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by Garry on 19 Apr 2013 02:31 :
I have a case all be it in NZ where a person born in 1899 did not have her birth registered till 1943. She was born in a remote location and it seems her fathers notice of the birth did not reach the registers office. It was only when a copy of the birth certificate was required the omission was found and a family journal was used as evidence of the birth. So if all the facts for a person you are looking for but the year of birth it could be worth getting the certificate to confirm if the person is the one you want.

PS the NZ Govt when passing legislation for the census here to be taken undertook to destroy all the original returns so we dont have this vital source to refer to - the beggers still destroy the source documents.
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by Doreen on 19 Apr 2013 02:46 :
Like David Williams above, I was also disappointed to read: "…explaining that the form needed to be completed on the designated day, and would be collected the following Monday." A large number of the population were illiterate, and I wanted to know who were the people asking the questions and writing the answers. (Thanks for the link David).

I'm surprised to learn that they were educated (lawyers, teachers etc.) as many of these people had poor spelling and poor general knowledge.
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by swedebasher on 19 Apr 2013 03:13 :
Yes, like everyone else I have problems locating certain family names as there were so many as in my case Gurney, all same generation named children in dupicated form as there forefathers had with a few exceptions. I have been building my Tree before computers which has now made it an armchair job, instead of combing the countryside church's and archives .Lucky for for me G/Reunited came along, tho I still find it frustrating when record actually gives the info I have gleaned ,only to find when tying in siblings once again I have downloaded the wrong Tree, so its still onwards and backwards. Thanks for this memo,
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by swedebasher on 19 Apr 2013 03:14 :
Yes, like everyone else I have problems locating certain family names as there were so many as in my case Gurney, all same generation named children in dupicated form as there forefathers had with a few exceptions. I have been building my Tree before computers which has now made it an armchair job, instead of combing the countryside church's and archives .Lucky for for me G/Reunited came along, tho I still find it frustrating when record actually gives the info I have gleaned ,only to find when tying in siblings once again I have downloaded the wrong Tree, so its still onwards and backwards. Thanks for this memo,
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by liz on 19 Apr 2013 06:18 :
I know from experience common it was for the census to be inaccurate especially details being imput on the wrong lines. When searching it is better not to be too specific with the detail.
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by William on 19 Apr 2013 06:55 :
This article does not mention that the Scottish records are held in Edinburgh where for £15 you can search births, deaths, marriages, wills, census records and many other documents and it costs nothing to copy the details. Or you may print off a copy of the page where the information is shown at 50 pence each page.

ScotlandsPeople is open from 9am - 4.30pm, but is it best to book by phone first to ensure a place. 0131 314 4300.
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by Sheila on 19 Apr 2013 07:17 :
Interesting article but doesn't explain if someone like my grandfather was mentioned in the 1901 census and I have a birth and marriage certificate for him but neither him or his family aopear anywhere on the 1911 census records. I has been an expensive exercise trying out all of the alternatives.
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by Trevor on 19 Apr 2013 08:08 :
I had similar problems with surnames with some of my ancestors such as Cross or Crosse, Haycock or Haycocks and Clement or Clements but fortunately I overcame them. My mother's maiden name was Cross without the E, and tracking back on the Familysearch.org website I came to a dead end when I came to a John Cross without the E and no parents names. I did a surname variant search in the criteria with a 10 year search either side looking for John's siblings,and the results gave me a John and a Joan Crosse with the E.When I looked at John's entry it gave me the parents names, but the clincher was that the baptismal date and place was the same as the previous entry without the E and his parents.
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by Terence on 19 Apr 2013 08:13 :
Most informative.
A transcription error in the London 1841 Census with the address and names of the occupants of a household in Bermondsey, subsequently corrected ,alerted me to a direct family link published in the South African Archives. This chance connection or detective work enabled me to established beyond doubt the household origin of my great grandfather. Transcription errors can have their advantages.

Terry Pullinger
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by Frances on 19 Apr 2013 08:50 :
very good aticle very intresting but I still cant find anything on my g/mother have tried for 3 yrs now, if you dont know the mothers maiden/first married name and she re-marries after her child is born from the first husband and the child takes on the new husbands name? no chance.
Frances
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by Roger on 19 Apr 2013 10:00 :
Very good article I have had a lot of trouble proving where my 3 times Great grandfather was born.On the 1851 census it was Stratton, Norfolk but on the 1861 the answer was listed as not known. I still suspect that Stratton is a red herring as there does not seem to be any record of the family at that place.
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by Albert on 19 Apr 2013 10:29 :
A very Good article but researchers must remember that the census only covers
the occupants of the property on a specific day some do state residents are visitors
others do not so be aware poeple listed in the record may not actually live in the property. As an aside it would be useful for future records ot show home details for visitors
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by Albert on 19 Apr 2013 10:29 :
A very Good article but researchers must remember that the census only covers
the occupants of the property on a specific day some do state residents are visitors
others do not so be aware poeple listed in the record may not actually live in the property. As an aside it would be useful for future records ot show home details for visitors
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by Pauline on 19 Apr 2013 10:35 :
Very useful and informative. This family has Elliottt and Elliot, Nulty spelt as Nathey, and multiple misspellings of Kenure, which being an Irish name really complicates research. Also, on some of the parish marriage registers both bride and groom have signed their name with a X. When I have been able to locate the parish registers they are a fantastic source of information, giving details of parents, other family members and occupations. This was especially true for John Sage who married a Mary Simmonds: I dutifully followed the Simmonds family for generations only to discover, on obtaining the parish marriage record, that Mary was a widow, maiden name Selway. (A lot of shredding!) Also, Mary's first marriage was to Henry Simmons-no d- and as Mary had signed the register by the mark X, she would not have realised or maybe had never realised the different spellings.
Now onwards with Selway, Selwy etc.
Pauline
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by DavidMac on 19 Apr 2013 11:00 :
People writing down names as they hear them is a big problem with BDM records. The birth record of one family member (who was born in New South wales) showed his parents were born in a particular region of Scotland, and the mother's maiden surname was Wikard. I couldn't find that surname in the Scottish records.
I found the family's immigration record, and saw:
1. the mother's maiden surname was Urquhart; and
2. The parents were both illiterate.
Other records from Scotland and NSW verified the information given in the immigration record.
When people are giving information in a government office, even literate people can have the information written down incorrectly, because the official recorded what they thought they heard.
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by Christine on 19 Apr 2013 11:40 :
I've encountered problems where names have been altered probably due to accent - if someone moves to a different part of the country they may say one thing in their native accent but the listener hears a completely different word!

I've also encountered difficulties where someone gives their place of birth as a very specific hamlet, village or area (sometimes with a unofficial, local name) which doesn't actually appear on maps - sometimes you need to take a wider view.

Middle names are often a good clue when looking at people with the same name, surname living in the same area and of similar age who may be cousins of the person you're looking for. In certain parts of the country mother's and grandmother's maiden names are often used as middle names or even first names - this can give a really big hint that the John Taylor Smith is the John Smith whose grandmother was Sally Taylor is the one you're looking for.
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by JimEd on 19 Apr 2013 11:46 :
I agree that some detective work is essential, and a sense of humour - what will researchers in 100 years time make of all the people listing Jedi as religion?
Recently on QI they listed occupations given on old census forms and nobody knows what these are now, some may have been dialect terms or some job spacific terms. I am sure some people were too specific "tin plate worker" would have been enough but "bottom puller" was what he was known as at work! There must be people who did this deliberately, I know I would.
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by on 19 Apr 2013 12:26 :
Another thing to double check is the use of middle names for first.We have an Edward,a Richard and an Edith,plus more,they have only ever been known by those names.Research shows that those are their middle names!
When you`ve double checked,check again,I know it takes time but you will end up right.
regards Bill T. :-S
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by Christopher on 19 Apr 2013 12:52 :
Like Sheila I have had two instances of families in my tree who just don't figure in the 1911 census. Was there a problem with it ? :-(
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by Michael on 19 Apr 2013 13:56 :
When resesearching the Census records (or others) It is often useful to use the "Starts with" or "Similar Spelling" aids as spelling often changed or was mistakenly transcribed through poor writing.
It is a pity that GenesReunited do not have these tools as we often mis-type names and struggle to find them again.
Using the date range is useful and could also be added as a tool to GenesR.
Regards
Mike :-|
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by Valerie on 19 Apr 2013 14:01 :
When my 1st husband was born his birth date was registered as the day he was registered by his aunt. This was about 6 weeks after he was born. He only discovered this after he was about 60 year old
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by tessa. on 19 Apr 2013 14:01 :
My Grandparents were both born in Lithuania. Thes were naturalised Britishin 1901. I havnt been able to go back any further in my research as I dont have their Russion names. Is there anyone who can help me with this?

regards Tessa H.
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by 2peasinapod on 19 Apr 2013 14:01 :
Although I don`t have a problem with my Grand-parents marriage everybody else would have as it is impossible for anybody to trace because in the F.m.P records they are married to other people but I do have the original marriage certificate, my cousins who have the same Grand-parents have told me they cannot find the certificate which ever way they try, I have been in contact with Find my Past and told them about this issue but all I get back from them is well there were alot of mistakes made but they do not attempt to correct their error so what chance has anyone got to build their tree.
WHY
Peter
:-S
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by kathleen on 19 Apr 2013 15:48 :
Regarding the 1911 census, as a protest suffragette's refused to complete the census, some even spending the night elsewhere. Where a family cannot be found on the 1911 census, that may the answer.
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by on 19 Apr 2013 16:02 :
Why do we have to wait 100 years, before a census is available to the public, and while on the topic, why is'nt the census that was due in 2011, available now
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by on 19 Apr 2013 16:03 :
Why do we have to wait 100 years, before a census is available to the public, and while on the topic, why is'nt the census that was due in 2011, available now
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by on 19 Apr 2013 16:05 :
Why do we have to wait 100 years, before a census is available to the public, and while on the topic, why is'nt the census that was due in 2011, available now
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by FelicityH on 19 Apr 2013 16:31 :
spelling does have a lot to answer for. I spent ages looking for a Charlotte in censuses, only to eventually find "Sharlot", and similarly a family born in "Worve", Sussex, turned out to have come from Worth! :-S
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by Mary on 19 Apr 2013 16:36 :
I finally managed to find a friend's relative on the 1901 census by trying a different spelling. However, the friend wasn't convinced it was correct because she would not/could not accept either the relative's or enumerator's illiteracy. I left it with her to continue looking on her preferred site (not GR!)
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by Rachel on 19 Apr 2013 16:43 :
As far as the 1901 census is concerned, all men fighting in the Boer War in South Africa are not cited on the census, as they were not in the U.K.
It shoud be possible to check their whereabouts by contacting the army /regiment authorities.
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by BarneyKent on 19 Apr 2013 16:52 :
This is a great article and underlines the need to check and double-check all variations of spelling in names and places of birth. I found it impossible to trace one ancestor by the search engine so I resorted to trawling through the London Parish Registers which luckily have been made available by Ancestry. I was looking for the birth of "Nathaniel Short" to no avail. After searching 50+ pages of a Parish Register I found him. Unfortunately whoever transcribed the entry onto the database had listed him as "Katharine" !
How that happened is impossible to say but transcribers are human beings and errors will always occur sooner or later. After all Pobody's Nerfect.
The moral is to double check everything whenever possible.
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by Albert on 19 Apr 2013 17:35 :
A very Good article but researchers must remember that the census only covers
the occupants of the property on a specific day some do state residents are visitors
others do not so be aware poeple listed in the record may not actually live in the property. As an aside it would be useful for future records ot show home details for visitors
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by Peter on 19 Apr 2013 18:42 :
I would like to emphasise how important it is to properly read the whole return. From my own history I noticed that in the 1871 census there was a lodger at the address by the name of Hurst and the 1881 census a child was shown born in 1872 with a middle name of Hurst. All good stuff and better than watching soaps on TV.
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by Peter on 19 Apr 2013 19:51 :
What should always be considered is the fact that in the 19th century particularly the early part most people could not read or write and most importantly a lot of them did not know the exact year they were born .My gr gr grandmother who died in 1878 loooking at her age through the various census could have been born 6 years either side of 1800 Also pay attention to the Month the census was taken Someone shown as aged 1 in 1871 depending on the month they were born could have been born in 1869
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by Michael on 19 Apr 2013 20:37 :
One of my great grandfathers described himself as a gentleman. In fact, he was an off-course bookmaker but could not admit this fact as it was an illegal activity.
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by hastwton10 on 20 Apr 2013 00:40 :
Very interesting article.

I have discovered that if finding an ancestor on a census is proving tricky, try sounding out the surname phonetically. It's worked virtually every time for me, there have been some interesting surnames!!
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by Margaret on 20 Apr 2013 06:37 :
Thanks for the very interesting article..... I too, have been able to find 'lost' ancestors when I checked variations of the spelling.
I was very suprised recently after obtaining my Grandfather's Death Certificate to find that Pop's eldest son (now deceased)had stated to the authorites that my Grandfather's mother's name was Maud, when her name had been Sarah!
No one knows where he got the name 'Maud' from.
I have learned from experience to double check every bit of information before accepting it as fact.
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by Roaminoz on 20 Apr 2013 09:24 :
All very interesting
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by Margaret on 20 Apr 2013 11:00 :
I think some of our ancestors deliberately gave false information. One gave a nonexistant birthplace place of Arblow,Kent, in the previous as Arrow, but eventually found birth in Harrow Weald, Middlesex. Another changed his surname but not other details luckily.
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by Pamela on 20 Apr 2013 12:10 :
I have had problems with transcriptions when searching for my Mother's ancestors. The name Prue was often transcribed as Price and as my Prices married Prues and were living in the same town so it was quite a challenge sorting them all out.
I also had problems finding a James William Lewis born in London, eventually I discovered he had been registered as James Lewis Williams! His mother (married name Williams) had had an affair with a Mr Lewis. They set up home together and later had another child registered as Lewis. Had I not found Martha Lewis with a child from the previous marriage living with her I might not have discovered the "secret". One does have to be a lateral thinker as well as a logical detective.
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by Anne on 20 Apr 2013 13:51 :
Regarding the mention of 'transcription' from written record-taking to the record books, my great grandparents are listed with the surname 'Settle', but the children with 'Steele'. I know for a fact that Steele is correct, but it's easy to see how mistakes can be made in transferring information from one document to another.

PS Does anyone know how to find out in which churchyard someone was buried in 1918? :-)
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by Robin on 20 Apr 2013 22:24 :
Where can I find on-line data bases to look at census data that are free? I am in Toronto, Canada, and am not able to search any other way. Can one buy a DVD or DVDs with all the census data and BMD data on it?
Robin
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by Simon on 23 Apr 2013 18:02 :
Having been a Census Emerator during the 1991 Census I can empathise with those poor people who had the task in the 1900s. In 1991, we were told by our supervisors that if each enumerator missed just 2 people it would amount to the whole population of Sheffield being missed off! (So that might explain why some of you above can't find names on the Census records.)

Even in a 'prosperous' part of southern England, we still had to complete the forms on behalf of some of the householders - either because they were sight-impaired, couldn't read - or couldn't read English.

In the end, there was only one household that I couldn't get the form returned completed, despite several return visits to collect it. In the end I gave up and passed it on to my supervisor to deal with. Several months later, the local paper reported that the police were pulling up the floorboards in the house in an attempt to find the 'missing' wife! I believe the husband was jailed for murder despite the fact that the body was never found... :-0
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by David on 23 Apr 2013 23:48 :
As has been mentioned, regional accents and dialectual words have caused problems aplenty, especially in the Black Country.
The Brockhouse surname of my forebears was eventually found as BROCUS - thank goodness for the ability to use 2 or 3 letters and the asterisk.
I have spent many hours, trying all sorts of ways, where the first letter of a surname was wrong, but persistence is the only thing, so please, when you are sure that their transcriptions are incorrect, send in your error reports to websites - it helps us all in the long run!
I have just had 2 marriages corrected on freebmd, one between 2 men and another between 2 women, but how/why the transcribed crossover happened is anybody's guess - human failure I suppose.
My real wish is to find the death and burial of my 2xGF, a Herald Painter, whose last known appearance on the electoral roll is in 1867/8. Both his late wives are in the same burial plot in Chester, but even Cheshire's brilliant Archive Staff have not found his demise.

David
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by Elsena on 24 Apr 2013 19:22 :
If all the Irish returns from 1821 to 1891 no longer exist, does anyone know how to access any other means of tracing Irish ancestors?

My Scottish Montgomery family of generations has been traced, all in Port Glasgow, but stops at my great great grandparents who moved from Ireland to Port Glasgow around 1841. It is very frustrating!

Also, does anyone know how to access French Records, as my Paternal Grandmother's parents moved to Port Glasgow from France.
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by Florence on 10 May 2013 16:00 :
very interesting Iam trying to find where my grt grt grandfather was bornand I willhave to start with his surname which is almond maybe then find him thanks for the info

regards florence
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by David on 22 May 2013 10:39 :
Thank you for a very interesting 'full' summary of what we can tell our relatives and friends, when the truth of of our research findings go against family legends, folklore, and hidden secrets.

Regarding the lack of a birth registration, I recently met a lady whose 80 years old husband has no birth certificate - he was born on a fairly isolated farm during the month of August, which was a busy time for the farming community, and this may explain why there is no GRO record of his birth. His older and younger siblings both had certs.
Besides my own quite thorough research, I was told that many years had been spent trying to find his birth - obviously various 'normal' documentation was queried by officialdom throughout his life. How does one receive a driving licence or pension et cetera?

Further to certificate costs, please be aware that I was charged £20.00 each for Jersey searches and certs, so the GRO price of £9.25 is comparatively cheap, and well worth every penny when it comes to saving time and money chasing possible leads.
If possible, when sending for marriage certs, where there is more than one couple with the same forenames and surnames in the same Reg. Dist. during the expected years, try to send details of other family members and possible addresses to the GRO to avoid receiving the wrong people's certs. If you already know 1 or more of the couple's offspring, I find that it is better to obtain a child's birth cert; this usually gives all of the parents' forenames - a really big help.

Happy Hunting, David a'B.