Ringmer 1881 Census

Sunday 3 April 1881: Introduction to the 1881 Census

by Malcolm Crouch

The head of the house was to complete their individual household schedules recording who was in their household during the period Sunday night Monday morning. On the morning after census night, the enumerators collected the household’s schedules. If these were not completed properly, the census enumerator was supposed to ask for extra details at the doorstep, although there is considerable evidence that this was not done uniformly. If the householder was unable to fill in the schedule, perhaps because he or she was illiterate, the census enumerator was to fill it in for them.

Then there were the unhelpful ones who just plainly became absent from their abode. There is a story of one gentleman who slept not in his house but in a field under a hedge for a few nights so he did not have to fill in his form.

An enumerator spoke of how he knocked on doors for ages knowing full well that the occupants where hiding inside the house, not wanting to see him, others would hurl abuse and tell them to shove off, in no uncertain terms. Whether this happened in Ringmer I do not know but I guess similar things went on, after all, people are people!

The census itself is an account of all the people who filled in the census at that time, and returned it to the proper office. The enumerators, of whom there were three in Ringmer, [William F. Martin (Builder), Charles Washer (Parish Clerk) and William Berry (grocer)] had quite a job on their hands, trying to find many people who had their suspicions about filling in forms about themselves and their families. Even today I am sure there are people who still think this way (the big brother syndrome). It is a shame that people felt this way as for many a Family Historian these census returns are a great source of information, a moment in time captured. Obviously this was not their intention to start with but they were compiled into enumerator books and used for various statistical purposes.

The census would show details of where you were on that particular night, and of course some people were not at home! This sometimes makes tracing somebody very difficult, as they are not where you would expect them to be. For example your G G Grandfather might be at his house in Ringmer with his three sons, but there is no G G Grandmother, who you know was still alive then, so why wasn’t her name listed? Possibly she had gone off to visit Aunt Maude in Catsfield or Uncle Fred’s place in Newcastle. Either way wherever she was at that time would be the census that her name would be entered on as a visitor. I have even found entries where the visitor to one household only lived next door! When a household is headed by a woman described as a wife, but no husband is present, he might be away on business, or he might be in hospital or even in prison.

A considerable number of people were not in normal households on the census night and special arrangements had to be made for their enumeration. These people included the inmates of institutions, the crews of vessels afloat, the army, itinerants and travellers, and night workers.

Children sometimes had their ages inflated because of the Factory Act and other child labour laws. Many people gave their place of birth as the earliest remembered place of residence.

This index and data were taken from the IGI CD Rom processed by the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-Day Saints, from a Family History Library Film, copied from the original schedules. There may be mistakes made in the transcribing at any time and a search of the original schedules is recommended.

Malcolm Crouch 2000