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Michael John Neill - 7/13/2005 Logo

Clues Found in British Census Enumerations

Census records are great for providing a framework for future family history research. This week we look at four census enumerations for a British family and see what these records do and do not tell us about this family. The location of census records should never be the end of the research process and in this case the records suggest several different avenues for further study.

Using the 1841, 1851, 1861, and 1871 enumerations for the family of Robert and Eleanor Frame, I was able to initially learn quite a bit about the family. The 1861 and 1871 enumerations were located on as apart of their United Kingdom collection. The earlier enumerations were located using microfilm from the Family History Library. All the enumerations were in Carlisle, County Cumberland, England. These images can be viewed at

Summarize What You Have Found
While the Frame family's enumerations suggested additional records, compiling the information from all four enumerations into one summary was a better place to start. Such analysis also allows the researcher to notice potential inconsistencies and avoid additional pitfalls. Fortunately in this case most of the data obtained from the separate enumerations was consistent.

Robert Frame was born in Spain between approximately 1814 and 1816, but was a British subject. His wife, Eleanor, was born between approximately 1815 and 1816 in Whitehaven, County Cumberland, England. The children were all born in Carlisle, County Cumberland, England, in the approximate ranges of years listed below:

Thomas: 1838-1839
John: 1840
James: 1844
Joseph D.:1845-1846
William: 1849
Mary Ann: 1851
Anthony: 1853
Rebecca: 1856

Those who are used to using United States census records will be pleased to find the specific place of birth listed. While such information could be incorrect, it at least provides a starting point. Based upon the years of birth for the children, it appears that Robert and Eleanor were married in the mid to late 1830s, probably between 1835 and 1838. For now, my family group chart on Robert and Eleanor is written out on paper. Censuses are secondary sources for years of birth and at this point, Eleanor is not necessarily the mother of all of Robert's children (all relationships are given with respect to head of household).

Using These Clues
I will use the information located in the census as a framework for working in civil and church records. Then I will do my data entry into my genealogy program. Since my knowledge of the family structure is still somewhat tentative, I will wait to enter the relationships into my family history database.

Robert is listed as a warper or a cotton warper in every census. A little searching revealed that a warper is one who operates the cotton loom during the early stages in the weaving process. The 1851 enumeration finds fifteen year old daughter Elizabeth as a bobbin winder, and mother Eleanor still at home. By 1861, several other children still living in the household are employed; twenty-two year old Thomas is a plumber/painter, seventeen year old James is a currier's apprentice, and fourteen year old Joseph is an errand boy at a grocery. Mother Eleanor is listed as a clothier. The occupations of the parents and the children hint at their socioeconomic status.

Robert, the Spaniard?
It seemed somewhat unusual when I noticed that the 1851 enumeration indicated Robert was born in Spain, but the handwriting was very legible. The 1861 enumeration provided the same place of birth and also revealed him to be a British subject. Given Robert's occupation (a warper) it is unlikely he would have moved to England as an adult to find work and gone through costly procedure of naturalization. A mailing list query followed up by an inquiry to an experienced English genealogist suggested that his father was likely a British military man stationed in Spain at the time of Robert's birth. Thoughts of tracing a Spanish lineage were immediately dashed.

Robert Dies
Eleanor is listed as a widow in 1871. From this I inferred that Robert died between the 1861 and 1871 enumerations. This time frame will make searching for a civil record of Robert's death easier.

Age Discrepancies
The ages for the parents and the children were extremely consistent for all four enumerations. However, there was one census when the ages of the parents seemed to be a significant aberration. The ages for Robert and Eleanor in 1861 appeared to be twenty years off from the ages listed in the other enumerations.

In 1861 Robert appeared to be listed as sixty-seven years of age and Eleanor as sixty-six. The couple should have been in their mid-forties, not their mid-sixties. Upon closer inspection the numbers that I initially thought were sixes were actually fours. They certainly looked like sixes, at least at first glance. However to be certain, I looked at the census column that contained the "number of schedule." This is where every household was numbered sequentially on the enumeration. Since these numbers were in numerical order, I knew what number was supposed to be a "4" and what number was supposed to be a "6."� This trick is an excellent one to use when numbers on an enumeration are difficult to read, regardless of the location of the census. It is always an excellent idea to determine if there are any numbers on the page that are "known"� with certainty and to use those numbers as a guide in reading ones that are less clear.

Additional Clues?
The "disappearance"� of very small children from one census to the next usually suggests their untimely demise. The disappearance of older children often indicates a marriage or an attempt to strike out on one's own in search of better opportunities. The rough family chart created from these four census enumerations will be used to begin work in additional records. Future updates on this family will focus on what was learned about the children and the non-English nativity of the father.

Michael John Neill is the Course I Coordinator at the Genealogical Institute of Mid America (GIMA) held annually in Springfield, Illinois, and is also on the faculty of Carl Sandburg College in Galesburg, Illinois. Michael is currently a member of the board of the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) He conducts seminars and lectures nationally on a wide variety of genealogical and computer topics and contributes to several genealogical publications, including Ancestry Magazine and Genealogical Computing. You can e-mail him at or visit his website at:, but he regrets that he is unable to assist with personal research.

Copyright 2005,

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