1911 censusHello, happy New Year and I hope you had a wonderful festive period; I hope you were able to spend some time with your family, swapping stories and enjoying their company.

Normally, the first few days of January in a year that ends with a ‘2’ are some of the most exciting for any genealogist. Why? Because they mark the release of a new set of census returns, crammed full of millions of names of our relatives from a century ago. So there’s almost a sense of anti-climax this year, given the fact that the 1911 census was released in 2009. However, as part of the agreement made with the Information Commissioner to facilitate the early release, one column was redacted – and all information relating to illnesses was covered up when the images and transcripts went live.

Now, the information has been revealed for the first time, and because these are householder returns we can see what our ancestors wrote about themselves. It makes for interesting reading.

Is anyone descended from John Underwood, who lived in Hastings? Perhaps one of his children –they are described by him as ‘quarrelsome’ (Herbert), ‘stubborn’ (Violet), ‘greedy’ (Charles), ‘vain’ (Doris) and ‘noisy’ (Daphne, who was only 3). His wife Ada is rather bizarrely called ‘long-tongued’ – presumably a reference to her constant chattering during their 16 years of marriage? It is perhaps no surprise to find that he calls himself ‘bad tempered’.

It could have been much worse, I guess; Richard Woodward from Highbury called his daughter ‘stinking proud’, whereas rather worryingly Addiman Parkin Barker described his family, under ailments, as ‘alive.’

The records of the 1911 census lift the lid on the way people saw themselves and their various medical problems far more accurately than the enumerators’ returns that we’ve used for previous years. Aside from the terminology that still refers to certain types of illness as being lunatic or imbecile, which is typical for the early twentieth century before advances in diagnosis and treatment, the way our ancestors used the census forms is very revealing.

Many women in the 1911 census seized the opportunity to make a political statement, stating that they were “voteless”, therefore classed with idiots and children’ in a direct reference to the Suffragette movement, campaigning to have the franchise extended.

So – even if you’re already found your records on the 1911 census, it’s worth going back for a closer look; you may be surprised at what you unearth!

Have a look at the `1911 Census on Find My Past

More details to follow in subsequent blogs, but plans for Who Do You Think You Are Live progress; the team from the Family History Show will be at the show with a film crew, and we’d like to interview you with your ‘personal archive’ – a letter, document, heirloom, object or story that you can share with others in a short piece to camera. An expert will be on hand to help you interpret what you bring… more on this as closer to the show, but we’ll aim to put as many as possible into our future episodes.

Which reminds me – Episode 3 will be coming soon, hopefully next week; apologies for the slight delay caused by the Christmas break.



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