Where was my grandmother… on the night of Sunday 2 April, 1911? She wasn’t at home with her parents and sisters, which is a surprise because she was only 13.
I know she wasn’t at home because I’ve just looked her up on the 1911 Census. An alluring and expensive way of spending an evening. I’m a huge fan of the National Archives (their podcasts are exceptional) and they have done a superb job with the census site. I hate to think how long it took and how much it cost to transcribe those millions of lines of scrawly manuscript. So I really cannot begrudge them their money. I’d have happily spent an evening cyber-stalking my ancestors if I could have done it for free, and the seven quid I spent has enabled me to turn turn up some mysteries. I think I may have just discovered an expensive new hobby.
Three things are odd about the census transcript for my great-grandfather’s household.
- They weren’t living where I thought they were. They certainly owned the house on the hill both before and after 1911, so why wasn’t the family there at the time?
- Then their youngest daughter is shown as being 26 years old in 1911. I’m almost certain she was two or three years younger than grandma, not 13 years older.
- And finally, as I mentioned, my grandmother and her brother were away from home that night.
It turns out she was at school, and the jpeg of the entry for the school showed me a couple of other interesting things.
- Her 15 and 16 year old classmates had their marital status recorded, which looks decidedly odd in the middle of a list of school-girls. The choices were “Single, Married, Widower or Widow” which is quaint in itself.
- One of her classmates had the same name as my godmother – so I find myself wondering if our grandmothers were school-fellows.
It would be expensively easy to click “buy more credits” again and again and five mysteries for a fiver isn’t bad going really. But I’ll resist and savour the unknowingness. Though I might get in touch with siblings and cousins to see what they think.