Tuesday 9 November 2010

People of Abbotsham, so good they named them twice?

Part of my job is to answer enquiries sent by email, and I received one recently that drew my attention to an unusual set of census returns. The enquirer asked if it was possible for a person to appear twice in the same census. The answer to this is yes, for a number of possible reasons.

But this one was particularly interesting because it is not a single individual who appears twice, but half of a village! The place in question is Abbotsham in Devon, in 1841. There are two enumeration districts in Abbotsham, and the enumerator for one of them has listed all the names twice, first in ink, and then in pencil. The instructions to the enumerators in 1841 said that the enumeration books should be completed in pencil, so it may be that this man did not read them properly until he had written everthing out beautifully in ink, all ten pages. The next ten pages see all the names repeated, in exactly the same order, but in pencil (and without the gaps between households that he had left the first time round).

Anyone who has used the 1841 census might wish that a few more enumerators had done the same, because the version in ink is much clearer and easier to read! The reference for this district of Abbotsham in 1841 is HO 107/242 book 2, or if you are browsing by place on Ancestry, Enumeration District 8. Alhough census images can be found on other sites, this is one case where the Ancestry version wins hands down. This is because the images are, unusually, in colour. Most images have been scanned from microfilm, and are therefore in black and white, but where the films were too hard to read, as was the case with Abbotsham, Ancestry were able to scan the original pages.

Just over 200 people were listed twice in Abbotsham, but they were only counted once by the clerks who abstracted the totals, so the population was counted correctly, which was, after all, the object of the exercise.

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