The census story – 3 – missing presumed lost?

This blog is the third in an occasional series looking at the census. Here we look at examples of ‘missing’ Brimington people.

There is really no practical alternative to genealogy websites for locating people of interest in census returns, so it is really frustrating when someone can’t be found. We tend to assume that everyone must be recorded somewhere, but finding them can become difficult if their personal details were not recorded correctly, or were badly transcribed.

One ‘m’ or two?

There are many examples of incorrect recording of the place of birth for Brimington exiles – that is people born in Brimington but living outside the village. In the 1891 census, for example, the Ancestry transcription for place of birth for such people has 40 occurrences of ‘Brimmington’ (one of which is ‘Old Brimmington’), 23 of ‘Birmington’, 21 of ‘Burmington’, four of ‘Brinnington’ and one of ‘Burrington’. This complicates finding such people in the census, especially if they have common names. Some such transcriptions turn out to be an accurate match for what was recorded on the census summary sheet that we see on the website. The mistake in such cases usually lies with the clerk who filled out the summary sheet from the census form completed by the householder. The clerk had probably not heard of Brimington and just did his best to decipher the householder’s handwriting.

One ‘m’ or two? Brimington’s name has caused some confusion amongst census transcribers. This parish boundary sign is installed on Eastmoor Road at the Calow (south end) end of Brimington Common.

Some Fruboish information

There is a similar problem for strays – that’s people born outside Brimington but living in the village. Their current residence, being the place of enumeration, will usually be correct but their place of birth can be recorded incorrectly. In such cases we face the same problem as did the clerk who filled out the enumeration book – we can’t read the handwriting.

Let’s look at an example from the census of Brimington for 1851. This is 19-year-old Ellen Edwards, a live-in servant on the farm of John Greaves. Her place of birth is transcribed as ‘Fruboish, Derbyshire’. There is of course no such place; but you’re is invited to have a go at decoding the following magnified image of what was written on the census summary sheet!

Another confounding factor hindering research arises from the thankfully small number of people who, for reasons known only to themselves, did not provide consistent information from one census to another. One extreme example in Brimington was Eliza Jane Folger (born 1857, married name Tye after 1874) who arrived in the village in late 1871. Her place of birth was recorded correctly as Devonport (in the 1861 census) but afterwards Gibraltar (1871), Quebec, America (1881), South America (1891), Gibraltar (1901) and Lower Canada, America (1911). In fact, thanks to information from Janet Ferguson, we now know her father was a former soldier and had been posted to these overseas territories.

The suffragettes

We don’t expect people to be actually missing from the census records. This is in spite it being well known that many supporters of the women’s suffrage movement boycotted the 1911 census. They adopted the motto ‘No votes, no census’. At least 500 household schedules are known to have been completed only partially or incorrectly for this reason. There were also a number of mass evasions on census night, where women congregated in large numbers. None of these are known in Derbyshire, the nearest to Brimington that is known being at the home of Helen Archdale in Crookesmoor, Sheffield. Adela Pankhurst was a boarder there. An additional 48 female visitors were apparently crammed in on census night to evade enumeration.

Reconstructions of the census summary sheets missing from the 1891 census (so that home users of Ancestry need no longer be disadvantaged), will be the subject of our next census blog.

This series of blogs on the census will form a longer illustrated article in the 2022 Brimington and Tapton Miscellany 14, by Paul Freeman. Our thanks to Paul for researching the information in this blog.

The previous blogs have been

The census story – 1 – (a general introduction), was published on 31 March and can be found here.

The census story – 2 – organisation in Brimington, was published on 31 April and can be found here.

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