Census ad­vice

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One of the joys of fam­ily his­tory re­search is to fi­nally find an en­try on the good-old, re­li­able census. We all tend to be­lieve what is writ­ten on th­ese of­fi­cial doc­u­ments but over the years I have found many in­stances when I have had se­ri­ous doubts. The re­sult is you can never be 100 per cent sure you are look­ing at the right per­son.

So how does this come about? One rea­son might be that when the census was taken it was com­piled by the enu­mer­a­tor and not the sub­ject. I sus­pect the enu­mer­a­tors were hard pressed, not given enough time to com­plete the task (and were prob­a­bly not fully lit­er­ate them­selves).

Take the 1851 census as an ex­am­ple. The pop­u­la­tion of Eng­land and Wales was around 18 mil­lion and at, say, six per­sons per house­hold that gives over three mil­lion homes to visit. In a long 12hour day at five min­utes per home it is only pos­si­ble to visit 150 houses.

Thus an army of 20,000 per­sons would be needed if the census was truly car­ried out in one day. There must have been ways of get­ting the task done quicker in or­der to re­turn home. Short cuts were per­haps taken – for ex­am­ple, it is eas­ier to ask if peo­ple were born in this county and if the an­swer was yes then a se­ries of dit­tos could be marked down the page.

And if there was no re­sponse AAus­tralian cover foorce of some 4,500 aat Z Beach (later nnamed AN­ZAC) wwho did so with­out tthe pre­lim­i­nary of a nnaval bom­bard­ment, wwhich at the other beaches only served to alert the de­fend­ers. The re­port that the AAus­tralianstli llanded at the wrong beach due to a cross cur­rent is er­ro­neous but un­for­tu­nately has taken the best part of a cen­tury to re­fute.

In truth, the ini­tial Aus­tralian land­ing was quite suc­cess­fully ac­com­plished with rel­a­tively mi­nor ca­su­al­ties ini­tially, thanks to the el­e­ment of sur­prise.

The re­search un­der­ly­ing this state­ment may be found in the 2010 book 36 Hours by Hugh Dolan, an in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer with the Aus­tralian De­fence Force, which de­scribes in de­tail the in­de­pen­dent plan­ning of the Aus­tralian land­ing. at a house they could ask the neigh­bours the names of the peo­ple who lived next door, what their oc­cu­pa­tions were and how many chil­dren they had etc.

As a last re­sort, straight­for­ward in­ven­tion may have been used if the enu­mer­a­tor had had a hard day

Un­like the dis­as­trous ‘text book’ Bri­tish as­saults on the sev­eral beaches around Cape Helles, the Aus­tralian plan­ning team – cen­tred on Ma­jor Gen­eral Wil­liam Throsby Bridges, his Chief of Staff Colonel Bru­denell White and In­tel­li­gence Of­fi­cer Ma­jor Charles Her­bert Vil­lier­sS­tu­art – re­lied heav­ily on aerial re­con­nais­sance in fram­ing the most ef­fec­tive land­ing or­ders for their troops.

This in­for­ma­tion was pro­vided by pi­lots and ob­servers of the sea­planes op­er­at­ing from Bri­tain’s first air­craft car­rier, Ark Royal, and land­planes of No3 Squadron RNAS un­der Wing Com­man­der Charles Samson based on the is­land of Tene­dos. Re­gret­tably, there ap­pears to have been very lit­tle ac­knowl­edge­ment in his­to­ries of the time of this ground-break­ing work in aerial in­tel­li­gence.

The ar­chi­tects of the AN­ZAC’s ini­tial suc­cess, Gen­eral Bridges and Ma­jor Vil­liers- Clark, re­gret­tably were both killed on and a meal was wait­ing at home – af­ter all, who could check?

Hav­ing spread doubt about the census, take heart, the in­ter­est of our hobby is the pur­suit of the truth and so just take it all with a slight pinch of salt. Keep search­ing! Gra­ham Moon, by email Gal­lipoli, while Colonel Bru­denell White went on to serve again in the Se­cond World War with the rank of Gen­eral. Gen­eral Bridges is no­tably the only fallen Aus­tralian sol­dier from Gal­lipoli whose body was repa­tri­ated.

An­other defini­tive source not men­tioned in your bib­li­og­ra­phy is the 2001 book Gal­lipoli by Les Car­lyon. This has ex­cel­lent de­tail of the whole cam­paign but due to the tim­ing of its re­lease it does re­peat the ‘ his­tor­i­cal fact’ that the AN­ZACs landed at the wrong beach.

With­out nec­es­sar­ily know­ing the full de­tails, Aus­tralians and New Zealan­ders have long re­garded the 25 April as a defin­ing mo­ment in our col­lec­tive his­tory – per­haps it is only now in the light of th­ese late dis­cov­er­ies that we can be­gin to re­alise just why our ef­forts should still be re­mem­bered. David Bai­ley, Aus­tralia

Census tak­ers with the home­less in St James – a tricky job may re­sult in er­rors

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