Saturday, November 5, 2011

Census searching - when less was more

The first searches I did when starting out were on the 1901 census for England and Wales, for my grandparents.

I had followed the advice given to all beginners, to talk to living relatives. I had asked my Mum about my grandparents, what their full names were, and exactly when and where they were born, so I felt well-prepared. I was excited and a little nervous. Would they be there? What would I find out?

I filled in the search boxes for the 1901 England and Wales census for Harold Harrison Berry, born 1896 exactly and living in Sadberge in County Durham. I hit the button, waited, and ... Nothing, he wasn't there. I was so disappointed.

Never mind, I had the details for my other Grandad. In go the details again, William Murray Crosby, born 1895 exactly, in Newcastle upon Tyne. Again, nothing, and more disappointment.

After a few permutations, I found Harold Berry when I put in only his first name, surname, year of birth, and put place of birth as Sadberge, leaving out the county. (Sadberge is in the county of Durham, but on the 1901 census the place of residence it was shown to be Sadberge, Yorkshire (North Riding), and that was why I was unable to find him when I added a residence showing Durham as the county. On every other census record that I have found since then, Sadberge is shown as being in Durham; not sure why it is different for 1901.)

For William Crosby, I had to put only his first name and surname. I also had to add +/- 1 year for year of birth (he was born in June of 1895, so his birth year for census showed as 1896 in the transcription), and for place of birth and residence, fill in only the County box as Northumberland. This gave a number of results, and I was able to identify the correct entry when I found a family that included the names of his sisters (that my Mum had given me).

It took a bit of juggling around to get the combination of information to produce the result, and in the end, success came by stripping down the information to some bare essentials. This was my first indication that this family tree stuff was not always as straightforward as expected.

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