Tag Archives: census

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.

Have I discovered Mary TROWER’s secret?

16 Jan

I wasn’t really sure why I ordered the marriage certificate for Emanuel MARX and Mary TROWER. In truth I didn’t really need to order it, but I am glad that I did.

I was certain that this was the marriage of my 3x great-aunt, but the information that Mary’s father was Henry TROWER and he was a farmer confirmed this.

For the record, Mary TROWER married Emanuel MARX on the 14th August 1884 at the Register Office in Pancras Registration District.

I was interested to find out more about the groom, according to the certificate his occupation was interpreter and was living at 183 Albany Street in London. His father was Bernard MARX and he was a clothier.

By the 1891 census Emanuel was described as a commercial traveller and he and Mary were living at 2 Priory Road, Hampstead, London.

Most interesting however were the details for Mary. No occupation was given, which is not that unusual, and her residence was given as H.M. Prison Kingston.

So Mary was living in a prison, which begs the question was she an inmate or did she work there? In the 1881 census Mary had been working in an asylum so it is possible she may have switched from one institution to another as a member of staff rather than as an inmate.

Another interesting research challenge to follow up. I seem to be gathering a few criminal connections, I am really going to have to spend some time studying criminal and prison records.

The 1911 census reveals yet another puzzle

9 Jan

I have been going through my database trying to pick out all the people who I don’t have a 1911 census entry for. I know I should really run a query to do it but that is beside the point, it is good to manually go through the branches of my tree once in a while.

I now have a folder of images that I need to go through and capture all the details and add to the database, then I can run a query and see who I am missing.

One interesting puzzle turned up when I searched for my great-aunt Nellie Caroline MITCHELL. She was born in West Dean, Sussex in 1899. I had previously found most of the family, including my grandfather and great-grandparents in West Dean, but Nellie wasn’t there, and I didn’t think much of it at the time.

Now I have gone back and searched for her I have discovered the eleven year old Nellie as a patient in a home for sick and crippled children at 181 Priory Road, Hastings, Sussex, known as the House of Sacred Compassion.

I know very little about Nellie, I have a marriage for her back at West Dean in 1933 to a Frank CUTLER, so whatever was wrong with Nellie wasn’t fatal, but I have no idea what it was. It appears that she died in the Chichester Registration District in 1977, so she had quite a long life, but there doesn’t appear to have been any children from the marriage.

I can find virtually nothing about the House of Sacred Compassion online, so don’t really know what it was, but I assume it was a religious charity set-up to look after sick children. I suspect a visit to the library in Hastings or the East Sussex Record Office is going to be needed to find out more.

In the meantime I am going to have to question my mother and her brothers and sisters to see if they have any recollections of their aunt Nellie Caroline MITCHELL.

Susannah POCOCK: the known facts

16 Nov

Susannah POCOCK is my 3x great-grandmother, and her claim to fame is that she is the only one of my ancestors for which I have been unable trace a set of parents.

The purpose of this post is to put out the known facts about Susannah POCOCK in the hope that someone somewhere knows who here parents were, or that someone has an idea where to go next.

Although I am using the christian name Susannah, she has also been recorded under the christian name Susan and Susanna, although Susannah has been most commonly used.

The earliest reference I have to Susannah is her marriage in New Alresford, Hampshire on the 16th January 1832 to William MITCHELL. Both were living in the parish of New Alresford at the time, William was a bachelor and Susannah was a spinster.

The two witnesses at the marriage were Ann WESTWOOD and John LOCKETT. William MITCHELL’s mother’s maiden name was LOCKETT, so I believe that John LOCKETT was almost certainly a relative of William. Ann WESTWOOD was probably Ann LOCKETT who married Richard WESTWOOD in January 1816, so again probably another relative from the MITCHELL side.

Susannah appears in six census returns from 1841 to 1891, in Exton, Hampshire. The 1841 census information is not as precise as later years, because of the rounding of the individual’s age and the question asked about the place of birth. However the later years do provide more useful data.

Census Year Age Place of Birth Calculated Year of Birth
1841 30* Hampshire 1807-11
1851 43 Micheldever, Hampshire 1808
1861 55 Micheldever, Hampshire 1806
1871 62 Micheldever, Hampshire 1809
1881 72 Micheldever, Hampshire 1809
1891 83 Micheldever, Hampshire 1808

*her actual age could have been anywhere between 30 years and 34 years.

All this data (with the exception of the 1861 census) seems to indicate a birth year of around 1807-09 and almost certainly in the parish of Micheldever.

According to the GRO Death Index Susannah died in Q2 1898 in Droxfield Registration District aged 90, pointing to a birth year around 1808. She was buried on the 28th April 1898 at Exton, Hampshire. The entry in the burial register gives her age as 90 years, so once again giving a birth year around 1808.

So all this data points to the fact that Susannah POCOCK was born in Micheldever, Hampshire around 1808. The problem is that there is no record of a baptism in Micheldever for Susannah POCOCK around that time. In fact there is no Susannah POCOCK baptism anywhere in Hampshire around that time. Without a baptism record I am unlikely to find out who her parents were.

The Hampshire Genealogical Society (HGS) Baptism Index only records the baptism of two Susannah POCOCKs, one in 1785 and another in 1827. There don’t appear to have been any POCOCK baptisms in Micheldever during the years covered by the index.

The HGS Baptism Index only includes Church of England baptisms, so there is the possibility that Susannah’s parents may have been non-conformists, but there was no non-conformist chapel in Micheldever around that time. If they were non-conformists then they could have worshipped almost anywhere in the county.

So where does this leave me, I have three other leads to explore, which I will detail over the next few days. It is probably worth me following up the names of the witnesses at the marriage of William and Susannah, to prove that they were both on the MITCHELL side of the family.

It might also be worth searching the registers of all non-conformist chapels close to Micheldever and then gradually working further out. Also there is a possibility that the baptism in 1827 could have been a late baptism for my Susannah, so I should try and rule that one out of the equation as well.

If anyone has any other suggestions then please let me know, all suggestions are welcomed, although there are very few avenues that I haven’t already explored.

Christmas Tree Project update – fill in the gaps

2 Nov

I still have four missing people, hopefully I should find at least one of them this week when the marriage certificate for Henry SHORNDEN and Sarah LAY arrives, but nothing should be taken for granted with that family. Two other from Hampshire will probably have to wait a couple of weeks, before I can do any more work on them down at Winchester.

Now my focus has turned to filling in the gaps with the ancestors I have already located and think about what I want to display on my finished chart. For each individual I would like to have a date and place for each of the following events: birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial. Also I would like to find a census entry for them in every census for which they were alive.

For display purposes I would also like some sort of general sentence that describes where they lived and another describing what they did for a living. This will probably have to be hand written (or hand typed), summarising information contained in many different sources rather than using the residence and occupation attributes. I haven’t decided about education yet, I probably don’t have enough information at the education of my ancestors to make it worth including.

Last week I downloaded a query from the Family Historian User Group query store (thank you to whoever upload that), which reports which census years are present for each individual. I then modified it to show all the birth, baptism, marriage, death and burial information I want, plus restricted it to only include me and six generations of my direct ancestors. I then saved the output as a tab-delimited text file and opened it up in Microsoft Excel.

The result was slightly surprising and rather disappointing, the query had worked without any problem, it was just that there were an awful lot of holes in my data. I added in a few formulas at the bottom of the data and came up with some statistics on how complete my data was based on the 123 individuals I have already found.

Marriage data was the best, I have 85% (105 out of 123) of the marriages for my direct ancestors, and I know at least one couple were never married, so that is never going to be 100%.

Birth dates are at 65% and birth places at 63%. The low figures I think are due to the fact that I have not entered a birth date or place when I already have a baptism record, rather than assume that the person was born just before the baptism and in the same parish I have left it blank. I need to see if I can find other data to confirm place of birth from the census and the GRO Indexes.

Baptism data is surprisingly low at 42%. I thought I had found more baptism records than that, as that is where much of my early research was focused.

There is quite a discrepancy between the date of death (53%) and place of death (45%). This discrepancy is largely due to me not assuming that the person died in the same parish as they were living previously or where they were buried. This is never going to be 100%, at least not whilst I am still alive!

Perhaps the most surprising figure of all is that for burials, I only have dates and places for 28% of the individuals. Like baptisms I would have expected to have found more, but I guess I haven’t really been killing off my ancestors and burying them as diligently as I should have. Again this is never going to be 100% whilst I am still alive.

I haven’t paid too much attention to the census data. I will save that for once I have established birth and death (or baptism and burial) dates for as many as possible, although in some cases the census data helps find when an individual died leaving their spouse behind.

Now I need to stop analysing and start researching, I want to have as much data as possible in place for the end of November, so I can spend the first couple of weeks in December tweaking the chart and getting it printed.

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