June 2009 Archives
The 1911 Census records for English counties were published at the beginning of the year with a promise that the Welsh records would be published "in the Spring". I mentioned this in Blog No 24 at the end of February and reported that I had only found one name of a distant relative living in England. At the time most of us thought that this was yet another case of Wales being left at the end of the queue by central authorities as is so often the case.
The records for Wales have now been published and you can find them on www.1911census.co.uk. On examination I can see that there was a good reason why the Wales records would have taken longer to process than those for England. Up to 1901 only the enumerator's summary sheets have been available with the names in each household being listed in the sequence of the street in a town or the path which the enumerator would have taken in a rural area. All the examples I've shown in previous blogs are in this format. In the 1911 Census, however, the individual sheets for each household completed by the Head of Household are available. The task of transcribing and getting digital copies of the census forms for each individual household has therefore been enormous compared to the transcribing and digitisation of the summary sheets of previous censuses.
But why should the records for Wales be more complicated to process than those for England? For the first time, as far as I can tell, the household Census forms in 1911 were available in the Welsh Language. None of the media announcements about the 1911 Welsh Census records that I saw mentioned this very important development. It has therefore been necessary to transcribe the Welsh Language forms and this would take longer if the transcribers were not Welsh speaking but I assume they must have been checked by Welsh speakers. Many of the today's descendents of those people who completed their forms in Welsh in 1911 will be non-Welsh speakers and would clearly have problems in understanding the returns completed by their ancestors. The website operators have thought of this and have provided a range of translation tables. To get these go to "about the 1911 census", click on "The Welsh Records" and at the bottom click on "Welsh translation tables" and you'll find the following tables:
Relationship to head
Occupations and related terms
City and country of birth outside Wales
Country of birth
Welsh address terms
The terms reflect those in common use in that time period. Forenames range from Adda (Adam) to Yorath which is given as the English form of Iorwerth. The address terms rather significantly start with "Barics" (Barracks) which reflects the fact that many workers in the quarrying industry, in particular, would live on site in a barracks during the week only going home on Saturday afternoon returning late Sunday night or early Monday morning. The occupations range from "Adeiladydd" (Builder) to "Yswiriaeth" (Insurance).
A considerable amount of work has gone into providing a translation of all the Welsh words appearing on the forms completed in Welsh and this is a good reason as to why the Welsh records took longer to complete than those for the English counties. By using the translation tables the non-Welsh speakers will therefore be able to understand the records.
On the Welsh Records page it is claimed that "around eight and a half per cent of the population in Wales spoke Welsh as their first language" in 1911 with the implication that only this percentage would be interested in filling in the Welsh language forms. This figure is correct but what isn't mentioned is that a further 35% spoke both Welsh and English giving the total percentage of Welsh speakers as 43.5%.
I should remind you that you have to buy credits in advance to gain access to a record. You're given a choice of amounts, the more you buy then the cheaper each individual piece of information will be. Depending on the package chosen, to get a transcript of a household record will cost about 90p but to get a copy of the original record will cost about ÃÂ£2.80 (but could be about ÃÂ£2.50 if you put in more money up front).
I attach a copy of the return completed by my grandfather living in Gwiga, Penmachno so that you can see the format of the form. I was 18 when he died and I do recognise his handwriting but for many people these documents could be the first time that they will have seen their ancestor's handwriting. I should remind you that you can get the image to fill the screen if you double left click on the image and you can then enlarge it further to read the small print. I'll come back to discuss various aspects of this return in my next blog.
I now come to the way of looking for census records, and numerous other records, through the internet. The most popular source, and the source that I use, is www.ancestry.co.uk. This is a subscription service and the current annual fee is about ÃÂ£70 to get access to UK records. For a higher fee you can get access to US and other records but I haven't tried this yet. From time to time you may be able to get a free membership for a limited period so that you try it out to see for yourself whether it's going to be worth paying the annual fee.
When you go to the site you get the opportunity to search for your ancestor. You can put in some brief very general information or you can put in more accurate information and clearly the more information you have the more probable it is that you can find the person for whom you're looking. You put in the first name and the surname and the birth date but you can put in a range for the birth date if you're not sure. For place of birth you select the country, Wales for all of my ancestors, the county of birth, mainly Caernarvonshire in my case, and then the parish or town within the county. If you know the place of residence you can fill this in but if you don't you can leave it blank. There is the opportunity to provide further details if you know them such as name of spouse or parents.
You submit your search and you get a list of people of that name for different census years and also Birth, Marriage and Death records unless you confine your search. I'll stick to Census records at this stage. When you see the name you think is the one you're looking for, you click on the "image" option and you then see a copy of the original census record. If it's the one you want you have the option of simply examining it or you can download it onto your computer. I've done this with many of my ancestors and all the images I've shown in previous blogs have been obtained from Ancestry.
Some of the original images are a bit faint and the advantage of having them on your PC is that you can use Adobe Photoshop or the equivalent to improve the image. You can crop it to get rid of the black surround and you can use the brightness/contrast facility to make the make the image more legible. Sometimes the writing is unclear and you can enlarge the image to get a better chance of deciphering difficult to read words. There are therefore huge advantages in being able to get the images onto your PC whether you are using a computer based system for filing your records or by printing them for a paper based record system.
You can also select a census year for England or Wales, then select a county which in my case would usually be Caernarvonshire, and you then have the option of selecting a Parish. You are then given the option of Enumerator Districts within the Parish and the number depends on the size of the parish. Penmachno had 3 Enumerator Districts whilst Llanbeblig Parish, which covers the town of Caernarfon, had 11 Enumerator Districts in 1901 plus one for the Caernarfon Union Workhouse. You can then start trawling though each district to see what you can find. This is the same principle as working your way through the fiches in the Archives but you are doing it from the comfort of your own home and at a time that is convenient to you.
Because I now make considerable use of the internet, it doesn't mean that I don't use the Archives. There are many other sources of information for which a visit to the Archives is essential. However, for someone who is a beginner I would strongly advise using the services of your local Archives office as you will find that they have very helpful and knowledgeable staff who will help you get started.