1851 UK Census Extract CD
(available from S&N Genealogy Supplies, £29.95) for use on Windows computers contains the full data from Professor Michael
Anderson's sample of the 1851 UK census, together with Barney Tyrwhitt-Drake's
analysis and mapping program. The data has more than 500,000 individuals,
arranged in order of household as enumerated, with full address, age,
occupation, birthplace etc. as well as name. The program extracts data
from one or several counties, selecting by forename, surname, occupation,
birthplace, country of birth, age and gender. It then displays a map with
counties coloured (or shaded for monochrome printing) according to the
number of hits; it prints the map, or a table of numbers or percentages
by county. You can view a table of hits, from any person you can go to
the full details of the individual and household as enumerated, and you
can browse from one household to its neighbours. Choices of sort order
are name, birth place, census place, or age. As well as showing detail,
the system displays and prints graphs of age distribution, and pie charts
of numbers born in each country. You can save search results as a file,
and refine the search. I found the program easy to use; it is a straightforward
Windows application. I consider that it is an excellent system, well worth
Naturally I started using it to find people of my family surnames; In the list of Hawgoods, I recognised Samuel Hawgood as a relative. He went out to Australia as a pawnbroker. In the 1851 census he is a “Warehouse lad”; by retrieving the household and the next house from the CD-ROM, I could see that he worked for a pawnbroker William Lawley. William's wife and Samuel Hawgood were both born in St Georges Southwark - is that just a coincidence? Going on to the Charles Hawgood, I knew of him already from trade directory entries, this census gives me the rest of his family - and Southwark appears yet again.
The searches can use "wild cards", ? for any one character, * for any set of characters. To search for my wife's Excell family I tried EX*L* - ie EX, then any combination of letters containing an L. This produced some Exall, Excell and Exell entries as expected, and some extraneous Exelby entries. One person found was Sarah Excel, age 25, a patient in a hospital in Reading. I would not have thought of looking for her there. One strength of the system is that 2% of inmates of institutions are included - I have found paupers in workhouses and soldiers in York Castle.
When using the system it helps to be aware how the sampling was done. For institutions it is twenty successive individuals in every thousand, but families are not split. For settlements in England and Wales with a population up to 2000, complete settlements are taken. For Scotland, and all settlements with population more than 2000, one enumeration book in every 50.
What I find most interesting in using this CD is finding other people with similar occupations or birth places to my relatives. For example, my grand-father's half-brother James Henry Almond appears in the 1851 census for Blackburn as a Cotton Power Loom Weaver, age eight. Is it exceptional for such a young boy to be working? To investigate this I used a facility added in a test release of version 1.1 of the program, to save the results of a search and use it as the basis for more searches. I first searched Lancashire for people aged below 17; this took several minutes, and gave me a file of 14,000 entries on my hard disk. Subsequent searches of this took five seconds each. One search was for everyone aged 8; there were 822, and 23 were in employment, eight as weavers. So James Henry Almond was unlucky but not exceptional to be working when eight years old. Other five-second searches found me all the weavers - there was a "scholar power loom weaver" age four, and several age 5, 6 and 7. The occupational descriptions vary so much that you have to be very careful interpreting these results, but by browsing through the data you can make sure they are sensible.
I am also interested in people who were born in Wiltshire, but left to live elsewhere - my wife's ancestors left Warminster to go to Australia. Back in 1980 as part of the Open University Course on "Historical Data and the Social Sciences" I wanted to find people who had left Warminster, and work out which social class they came from. But this was not feasible at the time. Now a 20-minute search of the sample of the whole UK finds me 4500 people born in Wiltshire, and filtering this again in a few seconds I had sixty people born in Warminster (people living in Warminster are not included in the sample, unfortunately for me).
It allows you to map the distribution in 1851 of people born in Wiltshire. Only 61% were living in their county of birth, and significant numbers had moved further afield - for example to Yorkshire, Lancashire and South Wales. To compare with those born in Wiltshire, I also looked at those living in Wiltshire in 1851: 87% were born in the county, and almost all the rest were born in adjacent counties or Middlesex
Most of the data on this disk was extracted at Edinburgh University in the early 1980s, and has been available from The Data Archive (formerly ESRC Data Archive) at Essex University for many years. I searched some of it before using Rosemary Lockie's program XTRACT - and her article in Computers in Genealogy September 1994 has a better description of the data than in the documentation of the new system. But having all the data on a CD makes searching much easier, and having the results displayed as maps and graphs makes the results easier to understand. For practical purposes, using the census to make sense of family history, I find this CD version excellent.
The system needs a 486 or higher PC, CD-ROM drive, minimum 4Mb of RAM but 8 or 16 Mb suggested, a mouse, at least 40 Mb of free space on hard disk, and more hard disk space if running large queries. Windows 3.1 or higher, or Windows 95, is required. The data is in compressed files county by county, expanded onto hard disk as needed - the largest expanded file is 15Mb for Yorkshire. On my computer a search of Yorkshire takes 2 minutes, the whole UK takes 20 minutes - I have 8Mb of RAM and plenty of hard disk, but my CD drive is quite slow.
I used version 1 and a pre-release of version 1.1. The manual for the system comes on the disk, as an 18-page document in various word-processor formats; it includes a description of the data and lists of Chapman County Codes, as well as clear instructions for operating the program. It is worth mentioning that the system uses the data under licence, and acknowledges the copyright of HMSO, the ESRC and transcribers - the data has been available on Internet and people thought it was in the public domain, but the Public Record Office staff tell me it is still copyright.