We always want more

The quantity of information collected on census returns has steadily increased with time. It does seem that providing more information can lead to more questions. In 1911, couples were required to state the duration of the marriage. It is clear that either some memories were faulty or powers of arithmetic were lacking. Not all the information supplied is correct. Quantity does not necessarily mean quality! It is relatively easy to determine the date of a marriage, so this is not a major issue.

Of greater interest is the information in Columns 7 (number of children born alive), 8 (children still living) and 9 (children who have died). The return shown is for John Stanley, born in 1861. He married Ellen Kenny in the first quarter of 1884. He was the son of Thomas Stanley (born 1829 in Roscommon). Thomas and my great grandfather John (born 1822-25) were brothers.

The return shows that 9 children were born alive, and that four have already died. It would have been reasonable to assume that there were other children simply working from the gaps in the dates of birth of the surviving children. Most couples produced a child every 1-2 years. A three-year gap and then a four-year gap raises suspicions. The census provides definitive information on the number of children to find.

The General Register Office website (https://www.gro.gov.uk/gro/content/certificates/indexes_search.asp#Results) provides the requisite information. This website provides information on the mother’s maiden name without having to send for certificates. The missing four children are as follows:

  • Ann Maria was born in Q1 1886 and died 15 months later.
  • Ann was born in Q4 1890 and died a year later. She appears on the 1891 census.
  • Catherine was born in Q3 1896 and died 18 months later.
  • Patrick was born in Q1 1900 and died 18 months later. He appears on the 1901 census.

Of the five living children, the oldest two (Joseph, also known as Michael, and William) had already left home by 1911. Three were still living with their parents. Four died young. No loose ends.