As discussed in my census returns blog, the 1911 census in England and Wales differs from previous census returns, in that we see the actual household schedule completed by our ancestors, rather than the enumerators’ books. This has led to some very interesting finds which, under previous circumstances, the enumerator would not have copied, and may have crossed out on these schedules.
As with all forms people are asked to complete, on occasions the instructions have not been fully understood, and incorrect information can be included. One example is that of Charles Godfrey of Wimbledon who included all of his children in the return included three who had died. We know that he lost three daughters, one aged 1 week, another aged 10 weeks and another who is listed as being “born dead”. These three have been crossed out, but we can still read the entries. Another helpful return also lists all of the children, but in this case they were all grown up and married with children of their own. The schedule has the ‘fertility’ information (years of marriage and the number of children to that marriage) for each of the married daughters of the head of the household. Once again the information had been crossed out as they did not live with their parents’.
On occasions you can find doodles on the schedules. On the schedule for Alfred Figg of Middlesex someone drew a pair of eyes, what appears to be several pairs of eyebrows and changed the 11 from 1911 into an ‘m’.
One of the most common forms of incorrect information being added is that of pets. In August 2013 Sky News reported that 16% of dog owners included their pet in the 2011 Census. This also occurred in 1911 and some can be found by typing ‘cat’, ‘dog’ or ‘mouse’ in the search terms and leaving all the other fields blank.
Frances Stone of Nottinghamshire listed her cat and dog (aged 7 and 8 years old respectively). Ernest Ladbrook of Ipswich completed most of the sections for his black cat Bob, who is listed as being a 1 year old pet who was born in a stable in Ipswich, but he is uncertain if the cat was married or had children as questions marks have been written in these columns. Additionally Bob’s occupation was listed as a nomad, mouse handler who works on his own account, mostly at home. Likewise William Chubb of Liverpool included his 2 year old British dog named Brestow, who was born in Yorkshire, was single with no children, worked as a watchdog, and had no infirmities.
Alone with the names of pets, the owners may have written interesting descriptions. Arthur Delve of Smethwick did not add his pet in the columns for people but wrote along the bottom of the form “Biddy faithful Irish Terrier bitch, a demon on cats and vermin. Aged 11 years.”
The 1911 census was taken during the suffragette movement and some women made it clear that they did not see why they should complete the census returns if they were not allowed to vote. For this reason some women simply did not include themselves on the schedules. Eleanora Maude of London crossed out her name and details only for her husband to add them again, and he stated at the bottom of the form “My wife unfortunately being a suffragette put her pen through her name but it must stand as correct it being an equivocation to say she is away,she being always resident here and has only attempted by a silly subterfuge to defeat the object of the census to which as Head of the family I object.” Others completed the census but included their description of being a suffragette. Mary Howey of Malvern describes herself as an artist and suffragette and wrote “Votes for Women” across the centre of the form. John Curphey of Liverpool listed his whole family and gave the occupation of his eldest daughter as ‘Suffraget’ [sic].
Perhaps some of the funniest descriptions come, not from incorrect entries, but from transcription errors. One website describes Mary Lord, in Lincolnshire, as the son of a Roman Catholic Priest, rather than her true description of servant. In this example Serv was mistranscribed as Son, and her sex incorrectly changed to male. Another example shows George Barras of Burnley as a “Caster Salesman Prostitute Machinist” when in fact he was a salesman for a Provision Merchant. Another entry shows Richard Auty in Leeds as being a ’Prostitute Machinist Missionary’, which in itself can raise a smile, but I doubt that Mr Auty would have been happy with the description as his occupation clearly shows him to be a Primitive Methodist Minister!