Family History: In The Census

Family History: In The Census

The 1881 British Isles Census was taken on the night of 3rd April 1881. The information is supposed to reflect their status on that very day and who had spent the night in the house. Anyone travelling would be enumerated wherever they stayed on census night.

So, it is perhaps surprising that my great grandfather Alfred appears not once, but twice, in the 1881 Census.

As expected, he can be found at home in Wigland Green with his wife (Martha) and three of their children (Mary, Thomas and Henry), next door to Martha’s parents. However, I’m not sure he was actually at home on census night.

Alfred Derricutt on the 1881 census with his wife (Martha) and 3 children (Mary, Thomas and Henry).
Alfred Derricutt on the 1881 census with his wife (Martha) and 3 children (Mary, Thomas and Henry).

Alfred can also be found at Audlem as a visitor to his brother Thomas, along with daughter Margaret, and Thomas’s wife. This is more likely where Alfred was when the census was taken. However, whilst he is listed as a visitor, Margaret is simply listed as “niece”. She is also listed before her father. Could she have been living with her Uncle Thomas and his wife Mary?

Alfred Derricutt on the 1881 census in Audlem with his brother Thomas, Thomas's wife and Alfred's daughter.
Alfred Derricutt on the 1881 census in Audlem with his brother Thomas, Thomas’s wife and Alfred’s daughter.

I thought I would also share a discovery I made in the 1911 census. Someone who I can only describe as a lovely lady despite having never known her was Frances Catherine Stone from Heanor. She’s no relation to me, but I think she’s a star.

The 1911 census asked each household to fill in the census form and list the name and surname “of every Person, whether Member of Family, Visitor, Boarder, or Servant who (1) passed the night of Sunday, April 2nd, 1911, in this dwelling and was alive at midnight, or (2) arrived in this dwelling on the morning of Monday, April 3rd, not having been enumerated elsewhere. No one else must be included.”.

Dear Frances Catherine Stone indeed listed all of the occupants of the house, occupants she certainly considered family…

Francis Catherine Stone and her "household".
Francis Catherine Stone and her “household”.

Yes, she listed “Timothy the Cat”, aged 7, and “Jack the Dog”, aged 8!

The enumerator didn’t find this funny as they crossed both out. Frances, aged 46, obviously had a good sense of humour though!


This post was written as part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge.


  1. Kelly says:

    I absolutely LOVE this!! Yes, Frances had to have been quite a lovely lady! 😉

    It seems an odd way to do a census, though. I wouldn’t think it would be that accurate. Think about traveling salesmen, children off at boarding school, those in the hospital, etc.

    • Nikki says:

      I’ve got a few instances where fathers aren’t found with their family because they’re working away and another where someone is in hospital. None of mine were at boarding school though as they couldn’t afford it!

  2. My mother-in-law has exhausted just about every census survey for her own, her husbands and my own families, since they were first introduced and right up to the current time.

    She has applied for copies of most of them, at a huge total expense, and has them all organised in a folder, just in case any other members of the family should wish to continue with her work when she is no longer able to.

    She has now come to pretty much a full stop, as the next stage which will take her back even further in time, has to be conducted at parish level, which is going to find her having to trail the length and breadth of the country. As you can imagine, at almost 87, that is going to be an almost impossible feat!

    I might take up the challenge at some point in time, as I find the social history she has uncovered so far, so interesting 🙂


  3. Two very interesting finds in the census. I love that Francis listed her four legged family! I guess that the other one was a mistake by whoever was recording at the home address. Maybe they just thought they should list those who lived there – not just those who were home at the time.

    • Nikki says:

      I must admit I found Frances and her cat and dog because I knew there was someone on the 1911 census who had listed their cat. Frances wasn’t the one I’d known about though, so there are more cats and dogs on the 1911 census out there!

  4. Kel says:

    Haha including the animals is such a sweet touch, shame the enumerator didn’t want to keep them in!
    The mystery around your great-grandfather is certainly intriguing too! I’ll definitely have to look closer at my family history one day!

  5. jeanie says:

    I love this! And I love Frances! I am on the hunt for an 1851 British census. I just went to a genealogy workshop today and I think they have the helpful clues for getting me there. I’m looking for my great grandmother and her parents and I have baptism dates, so that helps some. Not much info on that line.

    I love this story and I’m so glad you shared not only your own family but Frances too. I would have declared Gypsy and Stimpy in a heartbeat, just for sport!

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