52 Weeks – In the Census

There have been 8 censuses released in the UK.  These show the population every 10 years from the earliest in 1841 to the most recent release in 1911.

It is fascinating to see how the amount of information gathered by the enumerator has grown over the decades.

Basic at First

The earliest one, in 1841, was the simplest. It contained a person’s address,  name, gender, age, occupation and whether they were born in the locality.  As the years progressed the government realised the opportunity to gather more information and started to gather the relationships between people in a household and where they were born.

This information is a treasure trove for people looking for their family history. (Like me!)  The combination and age, place of birth, relationship to others in the household and occupation helps us confirm that we are identifying the same people census to census. It’s not foolproof of course. People forget how old they are, or where they were born. Or lie….. But you can track households down the years with a fair amount of confidence.

And the Children?

One piece of information that we love to pick up from the census is the children in the family. But one of the things that you are never quite sure of is whether you have them all. If a child was born and died between censuses then they don’t show up and you don’t know if you need to try and track anyone down.

The 1911 census added significantly more information to the form, including the number of years a couple had been married, the number of children born to a couple, and the number still living. This is so helpful when trying to identify the number of children in a family, but does highlight the high infant mortality rate, even at the beginning the 20th century.

This snippet here from the 1911 record of my 3x great Uncle John Mercer shows that he and his wife Emma had had 9 children in their 44 years of marriage, but only 5 were still living. 4 of their sons died before the age of 4. I cannot imagine how hard that was for them.

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