Friday, July 2, 2010

1911 England census for Mary Ann BUNTING, formerly ROYLE, formerly BROWN, formerly CORKER, nee KNOWLES

This is about a lady who outlived her four husbands. I can only imagine her grief and maybe some kind of inevitable acceptance of the transience of life by the time the third one died. Did she scream and cry and fall down weeping when husband number four died? She was about 75 at the time. Did it feel the same as when she lost her first husband, at age 34, after having four children with him?

I don't know but it's very sad.

Family relationships shown in the census return

The census for every decade operates pretty much the same way: each household is a unit. There is a head of the household, and every other person there is named and described by their relationship to the head.

Sometimes, this isn't quite right, especially when two generations live together, but it's a starting point.

The Richard BROWN family of Salford, Lancashire, in 1911

From the address page, we get the house address: 52 Stowell Street, Salford.

Today, on Google Earth, that address looks like a fairly new housing estate. It would be interesting to find out when and why the old houses were replaced. Could have been bombed, could have been "urban renewal", who knows? But with a little digging, I could find out. I would want to know the reason if it happened to have taken place during or not long after my ancestors lived there.

From the census return page that the head of the household filled out:

Richard BROWN, Head, age 32, Married. The marriage has lasted 10 years, Occupation: Warehouseman, Industry: Ship Canal Co., a Worker (not an Employer), born in Manchester, Lancashire.

Emma BROWN, Wife, age 31, Married 10 years. For the wife in a married couple, there is added information: 3 children born alive to the present Marriage; 3 children still living. The Occupation is left blank. Birthplace: Salford, Lancashire.

Frank BROWN, Son, age 9, Occupation: School. Birthplace: Salford, Lancashire.

Edna BROWN, Daughter, age 7, Occupation: School. Birthplace: Salford, Lancashire.

Arthur BROWN, Son, age 3, Occupation blank (too young). Birthplace: Salford, Lancashire.

Mary Ann BUNTING, Mother, age 72, Widow. Birthplace: Oldham, Lancashire.

How reliable is this census information?

Every piece of information comes from somewhere. You have to figure out whether the person providing the information knew the truth, and if so, whether that person also told the truth.

Here there is an intact family, and all the children have the same parents. The family is still living in Salford, where the children were born. Because the children are so young, we have a very good chance of seeing the correct ages and birthplaces on this return. When you see a census for an older person, and especially when that person isn't giving the information about themselves, there is room for doubt.

The census is not an official record like a birth certificate is, but it is a very good indicator of where to look for more information.

Questions this census return suggests to me:

1. What was the neighbourhood like? (And when and why was the house taken down?)

2. What was it like working at the Manchester Ship Canal in 1911?

3. Did any other family members (Mary Ann had four children older than Richard) live nearby?

This is a bit of a cheat, but I know that Richard, Emma, and the children emigrated from England to Canada before the First World War, probably not long after this census date in fact. Mary Ann, Richard's mother, didn't go with them. She died in 1919. Who looked after her during those eight years, which included the whole period of the War? This poor woman had lost four husbands and then had to see her son and his family leave, perhaps never to be seen again.

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