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|Proformat News ISSN 1833-9514|
In this issue:
with the 1841 census|
Given the 1841 census has become much more accessible, it is timely to reflect on the problems associated with research using this record series:
• The rounding downwards of adult ages can make it difficult to use the census as a source of accurate birth information. People also guessed ages that they were not entirely sure of or deliberately concealed their true age.
• The form required only one entry regarding occupations but. many people had significant secondary occupations that went unrecorded.
• The information required about place of birth was only vague. Birthplaces were often given as ‘in the county’ when they were not, especially among the aged and poor, for fear of being sent ‘home’ if they admitted being an immigrant to the parish.
• People who were out working during the night of the census were mostly left unrecorded.
• As the count was based on households and institutions, the homeless were usually overlooked.
• It can be difficult to work out the relationships in some households where a lot of people had the same surname. You need to be very careful not to make too many assumptions.
• Some opponents to the census gave deliberate misinformation.
• In districts where few people could write, or where opposition was particularly militant, the enumerator often took the easy way out and filled in the forms himself from personal knowledge and guesswork.
• Occupations were often given only for the head of the household and non-related males. Night workers are mostly not enumerated. Birthplaces were sometimes filled with a consistent ‘Y’ for ‘Yes, born in the county’, except for obvious outsiders like clergymen and visiting gentry.
These problems are especially evident in the 1841 census and were exacerbated by community resistance to the new idea of the census. However, all censuses share problems and these will be the topic in the next newsletter entitled: Collective problems with all the Censuses.
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