Tag Archives: census

Free accesss to Ancestry.co.uk census indexes on the 27th March 2011

22 Mar

To mark the fact that Sunday 27th March 2011 is census day in the UK, Ancestry.co.uk will be allowing free access to their UK census indexes for the whole day.

After checking the census indexes however you will need a membership subscription, to sign up for a free 14-day trial or to use pay-as-you-go credits to view the actual images of the original pages (except for the Scottish ones that Ancestry aren’t allowed to display).

According to the post by Kelly Godfrey on the Ancestry.co.uk blog “census records are the perfect first step. They list everybody in each household all over the country, together with crucial details such as their ages and birthplaces. So, you can quickly and easily collect names and dates for several generations.”

Just don’t get too carried away and forget that you are also supposed to be filling in the 2011 census on the same day.

The Census: Now it’s my turn…

11 Mar

Having spent many years look at the census it is finally my turn to fill one in. The 27th March 2011 is census day here in the UK and for the first time in my life I am going to be the head of household, although my wife might have something to say about that!

The census forms have returned, although I haven’t bothered to open the envelope yet, but I will be doing my bit on the 27th March. Of course this isn’t the first census I will be listed in (the first was 1981) and hopefully it won’t be the last just yet.

I shall do my best not to uphold the traditions of my ancestors, so I won’t be:

  • Hiding somewhere else on census night
  • Spelling my surname wrong
  • Lying about my age
  • Forgetting where I was born
  • Mixing up my first and middle names
  • Exaggerating what I do for a living

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).

The latest podcast from The National Archives: Counting the People

22 Mar

Some of the podcasts published by The National Archives are of more interest to genealogists than others. The National Archives contains a wide variety of record types, so naturally their talks (and subsequent podcasts) try to reflect this.

The latest podcast Counting the People is a real gem, and will be of interest to any family historian with an interest in finding out what it took to actually make the census happen.

Audrey Collins gives a sometimes humorous “behind the scenes” look at some of the people involved, some of the problems encountered in taking the census and many other aspects of the decennial census.

I would recommend this podcast (just over an hour long) and the accompanying notes to all family historians, as it will help explain why we may not always find what we are looking for on the census, as well as describing how the whole enumeration process worked.

GEERING research update

16 Mar

My research into the GEERINGs of Hailsham, Sussex is proving to be both rewarding and challenging, and I might even go as far as to say exciting.

I am exploring new areas, both in geographical terms and in terms of sources I can use. I am fortunate of course that Hailsham is not too far away (less than two hours by bus and train) and the records even closer (mostly at the East Sussex Record Office in Lewes).

I am also fortunate that there seems to be plenty of records for Hailsham that have survived. For example this is the first time I have been researching in a parish where there is a pre-1841 census still in existence.

Hailsham actually has two, the 1821 and 1831. Of course the details will be very limited (just the head of household) but the very fact that an ancestor should be listed in a pre-1841 census that has survived got me quite excited!

The weak link in my research is proving that James GEERING (the father of my 4x great-grandfather) is the same James GEERING who was the son of Richard and Mary “the old druggist” GEERING. I am hoping that the comment by Thomas Geering in his book Our Sussex Parish that James was a barrack-sergeant might lead to more information (time for a visit to The National Archives).

It seems a long time since I got so deeply wrapped up in a piece of research, and it feels so good! The only problem is that there seems so much to do, but oddly enough this seems to be working in my favour as well, because it is forcing me to be more methodical and better prepared for when I do get to visit an archive.

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