Findmypast.co.uk has announced that the final, missing column of data from the 1911 census, which details individuals' infirmities has been released for the very first time at 1911census.co.uk and findmypast.co.uk, the family history websites, which first launched the 1911 census three years ago in 2009 in association with The National Archives.
The infirmity column details wide-ranging descriptions of peoples' health conditions as perceived and hand-written by the head of the household on the night of Sunday 2nd April 1911. Under data protection regulations, this sensitive information has remained closed until now.
'Lunatic', 'imbecile' and 'feeble-minded' are some of the most commonly used entries reflecting an era before such terminology was deemed unacceptable. The census in fact prompts the respondent to record if a person is 'totally deaf', 'deaf and dumb', 'totally blind', 'lunatic', 'imbecile' or 'feeble-minded'.
However, not all the entries are negative or insensitive. The 1911 census records also reflect the humour and curious family dynamics from a century ago - not too dissimilar to what we know now in 2012. One extraordinary record details a Mr. John Underwood from Hastings recording his children as 'quarrelsome', 'stubborn', 'greedy', 'vain' and 'noisy'. He even records himself as 'bad-tempered' and his wife as suffering from a 'long tongue'.
Some chose to make a note of their good health instead of the health problems the form enquired about, such as 'well', 'healthy', 'sane', 'alright' and even 'perfect'. Evelyn Baker and her family from Leeds were recorded in the census by their father Addiman Parkin Barker as simply being 'alive'. Seventy-two entries simply say 'none thank God'.
A correlation between infirmity and occupation can also be identified in some cases*. The biggest source of employment for blind men and women was basket-weaving. Other trades for blind men were musicians or musical instrument makers. Women who were 'deaf and dumb' were often employed within the textile or garment trades, or in domestic service, while men were most likely to be labourers.
Debra Chatfield, family historian at findmypast.co.uk, said: "The infirmities column is the last piece of the jigsaw completing the 1911 census. This column alone provides a fascinating insight into life a hundred years ago. It not only reflects health conditions, but also a time before society became aware of political-correctness and certain terminology was deemed acceptable. In the more unusual entries we also get a wonderful sense of post-Edwardian humour, society and family dynamics at this time.
"Researching your family history is a fascinating way to learn about your ancestors. The 1911 census records include detail about occupations, housing arrangements and social status and you are also able to see a copy of the handwritten record itself."
Notes to editors
* The Registrar General's Report on the 1911 census can be found at: www.histpop.org/ohpr/servlet/TOC?path=Browse/Census%20%28by%...
Leading UK family history website findmypast.co.uk (formerly 1837online.com) was the first company to make the complete birth, marriage and death indexes for England & Wales available online in April 2003.
Following the transcription, scanning and indexing of over two million images, the company launched the first website to allow the public easy and fast access to the complete indexes, which until then had only been available on microfiche film in specialist archives and libraries. The launch was instrumental in creating the widespread and growing interest in genealogy seen in the UK today.
Findmypast.co.uk has subsequently digitised many more family history records and now offers access to over 750 million records dating as far back as 1200. This allows family historians and novice genealogists to search for their ancestors among comprehensive collections of military records, census, migration, occupation directories, and current electoral roll data, as well as the original comprehensive BMD records.
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