Monday, November 23, 2009

Investigating British census data in

Having spasmodically investigated my family history since secondary school I now have access to the website At the weekend I decided to check the England census for 1851 and 1861 and the Scotland census for 1841 for George Mackillop.

The census data provides the names of people in a house on the night of the census. In each case George was the head of the family. Lists of names of other people in the house are provided, their age, relationship to the head of the house, where they were born and their occupation. The address or partial address of the house can also be provided.

From the English census results for 1851 and 1861 I discovered that George and his family lived at 26 Grovenor Place in Bath. A search via Google revealed that Grovenor Place was built in 1790 and includes a terrace of 42 houses which are still standing today.

The census results listed the number of servants in the house. In the England 1861 census the family of George's daughter were visiting from India.

In 1841 George and his family lived at 16 Melville Street Edinburgh. The eldest daughter had been born in Scotland but the next two daughters were born in Van Diemens Land when the family spent a number of years in Australia.

Census results provide useful and interesting information but the results for George and his family demonstrate the misinformation that can occur. George's wife was Jean Eleanora but in the 1851 England census she is listed as Jane and Eleanora is misspelt. The person recording the information wrote the name incorrectly. Also in the 1851 England census the printed summary of the information provided by states George's birthplace as Shitingsh, Scotland. A close look at the copy of the handwritten information reveals that he was born in Stirlingsh, Scotland (Stirlingshire). In the 1861 English census the name of George's son-in-law is presented in the printed summary as William T Hutton instead of William F Hutton. There is also misspelling of other family names. Van Diemens Land on one occasion was also written in the printed version as a 'Diemansland, Devon, England' when it is clearly Van Diemens Land in the handwritten record.

Provided that the researcher is aware the possibility of error in recording and / or transcribing material the census data presented in is a great resource for discovering information about family members. Because of possible errors if a name is not immediately found lateral thinking for alternative forms of the name may locate the required person.

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