Map your history, make new connections and gain insights for family, local or special interest projects

How to derive material from the Census to Enrich Your Family History

Census Enumerator

Take your family history research a step forward. Collecting data is fine but analyzing it, is incredibly exciting as it has the potential to reveal all sorts of hitherto unseen and unthought about intriguing connections and we really like those!

So let’s find out what else the census can reveal to us………………………

The historical census data is one of the most essential documents that we use in genealogy.

    • The census is representative of the status of an individual at a given time, usually a single day when the information is collected.
    • Some of the questions however, such as birth date refer to a longer reference point, such as a year before the census.
    • The British census records people according to their actual location at that point in time and so gives vital clues about the behaviour in terms of migration and occupation of an individual.
    • Reading beyond the data recorded on the individual census sheet therefore becomes essential if we are to understand our family history more fully.

So let’s go from first principles in our exploration of the UK census records

    • The census documents most useful to the family historian are those collected from 1841 – 1911, they are online and are a complete record of the population. It should be noted however that the 1841 census does have omissions, miners on shift were not included nor were people on board ship in harbour.
    • Each census has slightly different information and the watch word for examination of all census records is ‘caution’.

Take heed of the fact that the data was collected and disseminated by human hand, errors therefore are numerous and varied:

    • Assuming you have found your ancestor and have acquired the ‘with a pinch of salt’ approach  to the data, then you have a good deal of excellent material about your family to work with.
    •  The obvious data of address, name, age, relation to head of family, marital condition, occupation, place birth has been extracted

The census can be used to provide much more than these absolutes, you  can  generate with the data new material to enrich your family history.

    • Think of the enumeration district as a map. The census can be followed street by street and in fact ‘walking with the enumerator’ gives you a good feel for the area. Find out how to work out which way the enumerator walked and identify your ancestors house.
    • Take a look at the immediate community, who was living next door, in the next street, around the corner. These will have been your ancestors friends and families.
    • Create a graphical image by drawing out a street line. It captures and resolves data by putting it into a different format.
    • For a small location such as a village or any defined area, collate the age data, how many children under 10 years old were there or over 60 years?  Did the community have enough men and women of working age in it to prosper?
    • Were people living to a good age compared with the national average, what might that say about the health and prosperity of the community.
    • Work out how many females / males there were? What affect might that have had?
    • Collate birthplace data, were there a large number of migrants in the area? What might that tell you about work opportunities?
    • Tally up the number of butchers, bakers, tailors etc in the area, what does that tell you about the feel and look of a community?

If you are ready for a new challenge in building your family history then deriving your own data from census material is really satisfying and if you publish it and make it available for others, really really useful.

Look at  the official Historical Population Reports, to explore data already derived from the census and how to use Historical Population Reports, which will give you an insight into how to explore them.

What we need to remember at all times is that this is derived material taken from a scanned original document and is your own interpretation of events gleaned from facts available. See the post of Primary, Secondary and Tertiary sources for genealogists

 

%d bloggers like this: