Q&A

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - CONTENTS -

The 1901 cen­sus re­vealed a po­ten­tial un­cle in Trevor’s fam­ily tree

QI was al­ways told that my grand­mother had three chil­dren by two mar­riages, all daugh­ters. Her mar­riage to my grand­fa­ther, Thomas Lane, pro­duced two of them – my mother Ju­lia and my aunt Beatrice.

Yet on the 1901 cen­sus a male boy is listed as Thomas Richard Lane, aged one. He is also on the 1911 cen­sus, with ‘im­be­cile’ writ­ten in the in­fir­mity col­umn.

My mother and aunt never men­tioned that they had a brother and I ini­tially thought that he might have been sent away and not known to them. How­ever, is it not the case that on cen­sus day, only those liv­ing at the prop­erty can be listed on the form? If so, he would have had to be liv­ing with the fam­ily.

How my mother and aunt, two and four years younger re­spec­tively, could not have known they had a brother is un­fath­omable. Trevor Fisher

AThe de­cen­nial cen­suses in Great Bri­tain, at least from 1841 on­wards, were de facto enu­mer­a­tions. The house­holder was asked to put down on the cen­sus form the de­tails of peo­ple at home on cen­sus night. Mem­bers of a house­hold who were stay­ing else­where on cen­sus night were to be recorded as ‘vis­i­tors’ there. The only ex­cep­tions to the de facto na­ture of the Bri­tish cen­sus were in the cases of night work­ers, who were recorded in the house­hold if they re­turned the morn­ing af­ter cen­sus night, and sea­men for whom there were com­plex ar­range­ments. In the case of Thomas nei­ther of these would ap­ply. So per­haps there was some em­bar­rass­ment about hav­ing an ‘im­be­cile’ in the fam­ily and your mother and aunt were told not to speak about him, or maybe Thomas was usu­ally in an in­sti­tu­tion of some sort, so could be over­looked. How­ever, I do won­der why your mother and aunt were born in Shrop­shire when ev­ery­one else in the house was born in Hock­ley, Birm­ing­ham. Was ‘Thomas Richard Lane’ ac­tu­ally ‘Thomas Richard Ab­bott’, and thus the brother of Daisy Ab­bott, the daugh­ter of your ma­ter­nal grand­mother by her first mar­riage? Edward Higgs

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