Tag Archives: 1861 census

Henry GASSON – more census lessons learnt

26 Jul

In an effort to fill one of the small gaps in my family tree I have been trying to find out where and when my 4x great-grandfather Henry GASSON died and where he was subsequently buried. Henry GASSON holds a special place in my heart because it was he and his wife and children who brought my particular GASSON line over the border from Surrey into Sussex sometime around 1830.

What limited work I had done previously had left Henry in Slaugham, Sussex in 1851 and I had been unable to find him in the 1861 census. There was only one death registration in the GRO indexes between 1851 and 1861 (in Horsham Registration District in Q1 1860), so it seemed quite likely that this was my Henry, but I never pursued it further at the time.

Picking up from where I left off several years ago I decided that I needed to find a bit more evidence before I invested my hard-earned money in a copy of the death certificate for the 1860 death registration. It didn’t take long (with the help of the SFHG Data Archive) to find a burial at Horsham, Sussex in February 1860 for a two-year old Henry, clearly this wasn’t my 4x great-grandfather.

So back to the drawing board, but armed with this information it seemed likely that Henry should be somewhere in the 1861 census, waiting to be discovered. I headed back to Ancestry, Findmypast and The Genealogist and still no sign of my Henry. There was a Henry of the right age in Rye, Sussex but that was too far of a leap geographically. There was a Henry in Slaugham, Sussex but he was too young.

Then remembered my experience with FreeCen several months ago, and how it had come to my rescue. I was lost for words when once again FreeCen delivered the goods and came up with my Henry GASSON. He was the correct age and living in Slaugham, how could I and the three big names in online genealogy have missed him?

Now I knew where Henry was it was easy to find him on Ancestry, Findmypast and The Genealogist. The biggest surprise to me was that the transcribers for all three sites had made the same mistake, they had all recorded his age as 26 years and not 76 years. I know the numbers are not particularly clear (the vertical check mark on the left doesn’t help) but there is no horizontal stroke across the both of the 7 that would have made it a 2. Although I would have to admit that the top horizontal stroke looks a little rounded, but that doesn’t really make it into the number 2.

I shouldn’t really have been surprised that FreeCen had the correct age, after all I have had success before, but what really did surprise me was that all the other three sites had interpreted it the same. I know I would have found Henry eventually on any of the three main sites if I had persevered and dug a little deeper beyond the index entries, but to be honest I wouldn’t have expected such a large error on Henry’s age, perhaps a few years but not fifty years.

My next step would almost certainly have found him because I was going to progress to tracing all his children in the 1861 census. Henry is lodging with one of his married daughters, but the fact she was married might have slowed things down, plus Henry and his wife did have fourteen children so it might have taken me a while to get around to tracing the right child.

I would have been much simpler for me to have searched FreeCen at the start, something that I must remember in the future.

Copyright © 2011 John Gasson.
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Finding Mary MITCHELL in the 1861 census: a lesson learned

3 Mar

I have previously struggled to find my 4x great-grandmother Mary MITCHELL (née SMITH) in the 1861 census. I didn’t really expect to find anything unusual in the entry, but with a surname like SMITH you need to check every record just in case there are any clues to help me find her parents.

I had found Mary in every census from 1841 to 1891 (she died in Q3 1891) except 1861 and was fairly certain that her son William would be living with her. I also knew from other census returns that she was born around 1808 in Cuckfield, Sussex and that she would be a widow in 1861.

I had previously had no luck with Ancestry.co.uk and Findmypast.co.uk but having seen TheGenealogist.co.uk presentation at Who Do You Think You Are? Live 2011 last weekend and having been impressed by their search facilities I decided it would be a good idea to try searching their indexes.

I had hoped to try out their Family Forename Search, but with the only two names being William and Mary I didn’t fancy my chances (and I wasn’t even sure that William would be with his mother) of finding them easily. A straight-forward search didn’t bring up any entries for Mary MITCHELL, but I did have more luck with William. William MITCHELL was living with his mother and his brother Alfred in Slaugham, Sussex.

Although I had found the entry and could have just left it at that, I wanted to learn why I had struggled to find the family. I felt sure there were valuable lessons to be learned for the future.

Of course I already knew that transcriptions and indexes are not always perfect but in my experience they are usually good enough to find the person you are looking for with a bit of ingenuity and persistence.

In this case one look at the census image was enough to identify the problem, in fairness to the Ancestry and Findmypast transcribers the M at the beginning of the surname does look like a lot like a W to me. Sure enough this is how they had it indexed.

So it looks like TheGenealogist has the best transcription, but not quite. They got the hard bit right (her surname) but got Mary’s first name completely wrong!

Also I am not sure that the address is correct, there is nothing to suggest that the name “Old Pack Farm” should have been carried on to subsequent entries. Then looking at Ancestry’s results it appears that William was born in Balmaclellan, Sussex (I don’t think so).

I wondered if anyone had transcribed the record correctly and remembered that FreeCEN had completed transcribing the 1861 census for Sussex, I wondered what their transcribers had made of it?

Turns out they knew exactly what they were doing, even down to the note on the birth place of William. I was surprised, not that the FreeCEN transcribers got it right, but that they were the only ones that got it right. Of course they don’t have the images for free so I would still have needed to check against one of the other websites.

The lesson for me is that paid for results are not always better than free results (and of course that an M can sometimes look like a W). I have been using FreeBMD for years but totally neglecting FreeCEN (and FreeREG for that matter).

Metropolitan Police orders for the 1861 census

15 Aug

One of the advantages of searching a document page by page rather than going to a particular page, is that you find all manner of things you weren’t looking for but are still interesting nevertheless.

One such example was in the Metropolitan Police Orders for 1861 (MEPO 7/22) that I was searching at The National Archives last weekend. I was looking for a mention of my 3x great grandfather Thomas GASSON, but I came across this entry on Saturday the 6th April 1861.

CENSUS OF 1861.-The Superintendents are to instruct the Police of their respective Divisions to correctly state the particulars required in the Schedule left at their places of residence, and that the names of those on duty during the night of Sunday, the 7th April, are also to be inserted in the same manner as if they had slept at their homes.

The Schedules sent to Divisions from the Commissioner’s Office this day are to be duly filled up by the Superintendents, as far as in their power, respecting all persons confined at the Police Stations on the night of Sunday, 7th, and they are to be returned to the Enumerators of the Districts in which the Stations are situated when called for on 8th. The total numbers of Male and Female Prisoners confined in each Division, and returned in the Schedules, are to be sent to the Commissioner’s Office on 11th.

The Police are to give the necessary assistance, if required by the Enumerators, to suppress any disturbance which may occur while they are visiting each house to collect the Schedules.

With regard to the first part, Thomas GASSON was recorded at home in the 1861 census, so I guess I will never know if he was actually on duty that night or not. I have not come across any schedules for Police Stations in my searches of the 1861 census (or others) but I might have a quick look, I would love to see if there are any prisoners listed in the Police Stations. If you know of any please let me know in the comments.

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