Category Archives: Census

Data-driven versus Pedigree-driven

The Millington One-Name Study (ONS) is classified as large by the Guild of One-Name Studies (there are 4,735 entries in the 1881 census covering England, Wales and Scotland). By 1911 there are 6,925 entries and to date there are 7,434 entries in the 1939 register. Add to this some 63,000 entries from civil registration and I am faced with a significant logistical problem – how best to start organising these in to pedigrees.

The traditional, pedigree driven, approach to genealogy is to start with what you know and work backwards, to a marriage and then a baptism or a birth – and on to the next generation (not forgetting births and burials). I believe that this approach works well with small and medium sized ONSs where the set of data is relatively small.

However, I have found that for my study it does not work well for two reasons:

  • a tendency to get distracted on a particular line;
  • too many similar names leading to a brick wall sooner or later. There is then a tendency to try and force a match perhaps a little too hard leading to poor quality pedigrees.

My alternative approach, which I have termed data-driven, is to work through sets of data one record at a time, building as many connections from that record as you can. In that way small pedigrees start evolving, slowly at first, but hopefully more quickly as more connections are made.

Some data sets serve this approach better than others. Census records (and I include the 1939 register) are an excellent start because in many cases a collection of individuals who are already organised in a family.

So I might start by going through each census record trying to match any of the individuals listed to a birth registration. If successful, this will (hopefully) give me a mothers maiden name which might help identify a marriage for the parents. And repeat … 🙂 for all of the census records. Slowly, slowly, the number of people linked grows.

I suspect a different approach might be required when I start to get seriously into the pre-1837 data, but for now it as worked out well for the censuses from 1841 through to 1911 and is going well for the 1939 register.

I would be interested in know how other operators of large ONSs carry out the family reconstruction aspects of their study.

1911 Census – the unknown Millingtons

The 1911 census is the most recent census that is available for the UK. Inevitably it has the most detail for family historians including for wives, the number of years that they have been married and the number of children both alive and dead. It is worth paying close attention to the census forms because a number of husbands and widows also provide this information even though it is not required.

By 1911 the range of forenames had vastly increased making the identification of children much easier and similarly there are more individuals with middle names (which may only be given as an initial).

By 1911 too, civil registration had been running for 74 years (though birth registration had only been compulsory since 1874) and so only the elderly should be without a birth certificate and even they should have a death certificate at some point in the future.

Lastly the recent release by the General Register Office of the results of their indexing program means that mothers maiden names of children born before 1911 can be more readily identified.

Given all of these changes, I thought it was a worthwhile exercise  to see how many of the 6925 Millington entries that I have located in the 1911 census could be linked to at least one of a Birth, Marriage or Death entry.  After a number of years work on this, I am left with 478 entries (just under 7%) that at present are still in my difficult pile.

The list as it currently stands can be found here. If you have any evidence linking these entries to birth, marriage or death registration I would be delighted to hear from you. I doubt whether I can match all of the outstanding entries, but a few more would be good.

Update (02.05.2018) The list is now down to 454 entries – hopefully in a future post, I will talk about some of the more complex identfications I have made.