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