Tuesday, 13 January 2009

1911 census

The long-awaited 1911 census was officially launched today. I had the chance to have a sneak preview of the census just before Christmas as part of the beta-testing programme so I have already spent my first £24.95 and downloaded the census images for most of my grandparents and great-grandparents. I've only this week had the chance to start sorting through all the pages. Not all the counties were available at the time of the beta-test, but fortunately the first counties to be uploaded were all in the south and west of England which is where all my family lived and the vast majority of Cruwyses and Cruses too. With the official launch today a few more counties are now available and the remainder will follow in the coming weeks. I have not yet been able to locate my grandfather, Herbert Cruwys, or my great-grandparents Frederick and Emma Cruwys. They should be living in Barnes or Hammersmith in London. I'm not sure yet whether their names have been transcribed in an unexpected way or if they were living somewhere I had not anticipated. Unfortunately it's not possible to search by Christian name, and the wild card searches have been temporarily disabled for the launch to cope with the heavy traffic. I will check back in the coming weeks to see if I can find them.

One of the big bonuses of the 1911 census is that for the first time we get to see our ancestors' own handwriting whereas in previous censuses the householders' returns were copied out by the census enumerator. The images have been reproduced in colour for the first time too, which makes it much easier to read the writing. The 1911 census also provides additional information such as the number of years a couple have been married and how many children the mother has had, including those who have since died. Caution is required however when using this information. My great-grandparents, James Lymer Ratty and Alice Maud Trask, are living in Newington in 1911 with their three sons. They claimed that they had been married for 18 years, but I know from their marriage certificate that they did not marry until 1922! Inevitably new information will solve some problems and pose more questions. Alice Maud stated on the census form that she had had a total of five children, two of whom had died. I know that by 1911 she already had four living children: the three sons who were living with her in 1911 and also a daughter, Laura Pemberton née Trask. Laura emigrated to America in 1911. I cannot find Laura and her family in the census so I presume that they were already in America by the time the census was taken. I now have to find the identity of the fifth child, and I have just put through a certificate order for a likely candidate.

In previous censuses I have always had great difficulty finding anyone with the surname Cruwys and the name was more often than not mis-spelt. I have therefore been surprised to find a large number of Cruwyses in 1911. I can only think that the Cruwyses took particular care when filling out their census forms and used their best handwriting! The fact that the census is only one stage away from the original probably helps too, whereas the earlier censuses have effectively been transcribed twice, firstly by the enumerators and secondly by the paid transcribers. From the counties so far available in 1911 I have the following statistics:

Crewys 9
Cruwys 135
Cruys 5
Cruse 1097

It will be too expensive to download every single Cruwys and Cruse image so I will wait until the census becomes available on subscription on Find my Past later this year. In the meantime I have copied all the index entries for Cruwys, Cruys and Cruys into a spreadsheet, and have sorted them into family groups, helped by the fact that it is possible to refine searches by combining names with other family members. If anyone would like a copy of this spreadsheet please get in touch. I hope to complete a similar exercise for the Cruses but will probably wait until all the counties have been uploaded so that the process will be more manageable. In the meantime if anyone has purchased an image for any Cruwyses or Cruses I would be most grateful to have a copy for my records.

The official website can be found here. There is also a 1911 census blog with supplementary information which can be found here. Happy hunting!

No comments: