The Census Enumerator Mini Project

Our 2015 mini project was suggested by FACHRS member Rob White who has carried out research into the 19th century census enumerators in the town and parish of Winchcombe in Gloucestershire:

"The overall picture in Winchcombe was that in 1841 parish officials played a major role in the local census and, with the addition of members of the legal profession, this pattern largely held sway over the next few decades. However, that wouldn’t have become apparent if I’d just picked one census enumerator to research. Over the decades the Winchcombe enumerators included two shoe/bootmakers, a harness maker/ saddler, an ironmonger/ cabinetmaker, a stationer, a grocer, three drapers, a slater /plasterer, and a house decorator. From that the simple conclusion could be drawn that Winchcombe’s census enumerators were often tradesmen, and taking only one enumerator at random - whether clerk, tradesman, or any other occupation shown - would in itself not be very revealing. Unlike the schoolmistresses and bankers in previous FACHRS mini projects, being a census enumerator was not a career choice but (I would suggest) primarily an occasional opportunity for a literate man to supplement his income, and those individuals who were either parish officials or on good terms with them were probably best placed to be given the chance to be an enumerator.
So in order to ensure that a FACHRS mini project about census enumerators is meaningful a different approach may need to be taken compared with previous projects. First of all, if the pre-1841 censuses were usually administered by a local overseer of the poor, and from 1841 the gathering of census data in each community was done by enumerators appointed by the district registrar of births and deaths, then it would not be unexpected for at least some of the enumerators in most communities in 1841 to be parish officials. In order to test this we would need to focus on several 'full-census' years, beginning with 1841."

The 2015 Census Enumerators mini project is therefore setting out to test the hypothesis that in 1841 and subsequent census years it would not be unexpected for the district registrar and at least some of the enumerators in most communities to be parish officials.