Census records – one of my gateway sources


I call some of the sources I use my gateway sources. I find them critical to breaking down brick walls. Do I stand at the gateway afraid to go any further? Do I stand in the open gateway thinking about how to approach a completely new set of sources that may contain family stories?
Passenger lists are one of my gateway sources. Before a family member embarks on their journey to Australia I focus on British sources. Once a family member arrives in Australia I search for my family stories here in Australia.
Census records, particularly those that form part of the 1841 English census collection, are one of my favourite gateway sources. They set a point in time for setting aside Australian collections and turning to English collections. Furthermore, information contained in an 1841 England census record may confirm information I already have or may give some clues about which other English collections I should look at.
For example, the 1841 England census records are pivotal in telling the story of my paternal two greats grandfather Francis Baulch and his wife Ann Bowles. The census records establish that the family was still living in Pitney, Somerset at census time. The census records also contain hints as to why the family emigrated to Tasmania with other Pitney, Somerset families not long afterwards.
There is no doubt that Francis’s family was in dire straits by 1841. As were many such families following the enclosures in the area several years beforehand. The Pitney churchwardens were concerned about the debt owed to them by Francis’s mother. Francis couldn’t help. He had a young and growing family to provide for. And Francis had difficulty getting sufficient work to sustain his own family let alone help his mother in her difficulties. One year he did manage to win the contract for hauling stone for the roads but was unable to retain the contract. Francis’s brother, Enoch, in common with many other young agricultural laborers, also had difficulty in obtaining work. And when he did have work Enoch was paid a pittance.
The 1841 England census was held on the 6th of June. It was summer harvest time and may well have been one of those times that Enoch Baulch had work. It’s likely that Enoch was one of the unnamed men recorded in the census as living in sheds.
The Baulch men, and other men like them, would have been receptive to Henry Dowling’s search for experience agricultural laborers in 1840/1841. Tasmanian farmers had appointed Dowling as their agent in the farmers search for workers to replace men who had left Tasmania for the opportunities in the new Port Phillip district.
In the autumn following the 1841 Census the Pitney churchwardens gave Francis Baulch and Charles Bartlett, both with young families to support, funds to purchase clothing and other necessities to help them emigrate. By late November 1841, the two men, their families and some closely connected families sailed for Tasmania. They were avoiding facing another bleak winter in Pitney.
But some family members didn’t come. The census records give clues as to why.
For example, Francis’s brother William Baulch was living next door to his mother at the time. No doubt to help his mother when needed. His mother remarried in 1845 so William and his family was then free to emigrate. There is a clue there in the 1841 census records that helped find William’s new home. In 1841 William Baulch and Martha Cook had a ten-year-old boy, Edward or Edmond Perrin, staying with them. There they all are emigrating to the United States in 1850 and can be followed in the US censuses from thereafter.
Others weren’t of the right age or otherwise not qualified for assistance to emigrate. Some of the children later emigrated with many of Henry Baulch’s descendants emigrating to Queensland.
Charles Edgar, one of Ann Bowles’ younger half brothers, went to Ontario, Canada.
Frances-Fletcher-TreeWhich brings me to a source that I think may become another of my gateway sources. I have a DNA autosomal match with a Canadian cousin. On my side of our family tree the match comes about because I am a descendant of Henry Bowles and Frances Fletcher, Ann Bowles’s parents. On the other side of our family tree the match comes about because my Canadian cousin is a descendant of William Edgar and Frances Fletcher, Charles Edgar’s parents. The ancestor we have in common is Frances Fletcher. The chromosome segments where we match, therefore, must have been passed down from Frances Fletcher. But which segments on which chromosomes?

Selected Bibliography:
The National Archives (TNA): HO 107/955 f4 p1 Census Returns: 1841
Canada Census 1851 -1861 [database ] www.familysearch.org
United States Census, 1860 – 1870, [database & images] www.familysearch.org
St John the Baptist Church of England (Pitney, Somerset, England). Parish chest material.
AncestryDNA [database]. www.ancestry.com.au.

6 Replies to “Census records – one of my gateway sources”

  1. I agree with Fran the term “gateway sources” concept is great. I very much enjoyed how you wove the contextual story around the ‘facts; provided by the census; it really helps makes the story come alive.

Comments are closed.