Papers prepared by Dr. (later Prof.) Aubrey Newman
for a conference at University College, London,
convened on 6 July 1975 by the
Jewish Historical Society of England
Page created: 20 July 2017
A NOTE ON HANDLING CENSUS MATERIAL
by Marcel Glaskie
In this paper, I do not wish to instruct the professional historian, but to relay to fellow amateurs my impressions of over two years work on the Census of 1871. I think that I might justifiably claim to have been the first amateur to use the Census Enumerators Books, and it is my object to persuade others to follow in my footsteps as the Birmingham group has already done. I have no wish to cover the ground already dealt with in Bill Williams' paper on sources, but simply to record my own reactions to the use of Census material and to outline some of the procedures which I found it useful to adopt.
While the local history librarian night be expected to instruct most newcomers on the use of a microfilm reader and a census street index, there are shortcuts in using the material which might prove worthwhile to persons, like myself, who can afford only a few hours in the library on the occasional free evening. Since I found that I was able to read faster than I could write, I decided that I could make the best use of the time available by collecting data on a casette tape recorder, spelling out names and unfamiliar foreign towns. Later, at home, usually on a Sunday when the libraries were closed, I played back the tape and copied the entries onto duplicated facsimiles of the enumerator's form (Appendix 1). In the course of two years, I completed twelve one-hour tapes. If this number seems relatively small, it should be made clear that in searching areas outside the main Jewish residential concentrations, it was possible to spend two or three evenings without finding a single Jewish inhabitant. I found that little was to be gained from working for periods longer than four hours. Microfilm readers can cause considerable strain, particularly in the case of barely legible enumerators, and fatigue easily becomes a source of error.
An important preliminary point of caution is to ascertain that the census material under review is complete. In some instances, the original Enumerator's Books have deteriorated in the Public Record Office to a point at which they can no longer be read. These sections will not normally find their way onto a microfilm version. It is important that such omissions should be noted, and that allowance should be made for them in the final reckoning. Occasionally it may be necessary to visit other libraries to cover outlying suburban districts (Prestwich and Bowden, for example) which, from the 1850s, had begun to attract merchants from the city centre, but which lay outside the city boundaries.
After some practice, I found little difficulty in following the identification procedures mentioned in Bill Williams' paper. The Jewish population of Manchester and Salford covered a very wide area of both cities, and although I was familiar enough with the 'ghetto' area, I found it essential to make prior use of the directories in seeking other districts in which Jewish families might be sought. Since the census microfilm is arranged by enumeration districts, I was then able to cover those districts within which Jewish residents had been located. This was, of course, only a guide to the areas which might be covered first; in the long run, it proved necessary to least to sample most census districts in both cities. My own particular refinement to the methodology employed was to total separately the Jewish population of each enumeration district. Using summaries contained at the end of each enumerator's book, it was then possible to state the Jewish population as a percentage of the total for each district.
A map of the enumerator's districts in Manchester already existed when my work began, but in the case of Salford I was forced back on making my own from information at the oommencement of each enumerator's book. In the end, however, the exercise proved valuable, not least to the Local History Libraries in Manchester and Salford, where copies of my map will shortly be made available to other researchers. The local historian depends upon the goodwill of an overworked library service, and a helpful gesture such as the making of a map may well lay the basis for satisfactory co-operation over a long period of time.
In order to maintain an interest in Census work, and to gain initial experience in the identification of names, it is probably advisable to begin in an area known from other sources to contain a substantial Jewish population. An immigrant district is particularly instructive. Since most towns in the north of England housed sizeable Irish communities, it is relatively easy to select the Jewish fnnilies who lived amonst them, occasionally in the same multi-occupied dwellings. There are, of course, misleading cases, such as the Cohen family of Rochdale (Appendix 2). In the first instance, such families should not be excluded, but retained to undergo the 'filtering' system described in Bill Williams' paper. Other foreign persons whose names are not unequivocally Jewish would also normally be included in the first instance. Only when you hit upon a definite colony of non-Jewish aliens, such as the Greek Orthodox Christians of Higher Broughton, the Protestant Germans of Lower Broughton, or the Roman Catholic Italians of Ancoats can one omit with confidence on the first run.
A common misreading of Jewish naming customs raises a difficulty which might lead to the exclusion of Jewish families. It is thought that unless a child is posthumous, he or she would not normally be given the same first name as a parent. The evidence in the census suggests that this is not so, at least in the case of the English version of the name. A century ago, it was fairly common for a son to have the same name - usually a biblical one - as his father, and a girl the same as her mother (Appendix 3). My own great grandparents were observant and they named their daughter, Sarah, after her mother. Of course, the possibility exists that in some cases the Hebrew name differed even when the English one did not. The point I wish to make, however, is simply that the presence in the census of children with the same first names as one or other of their parents should not exclude their families from consideration.
The accuracy of the Census in the spelling of names is, to say the least of it, questionable, particularly when the enumerators were dealing with unfamiliar immigrants, whose speech they could not understand and who could not render their names in any recog- nisably English form. A most alarming error in the Census of 1861 was the rendering of Lyon Goldstone as Lyon Gladstone, Places of birth, and even ages, no doubt suffered from the same human errors, and there are certainly unlikely-sounding towns which appear on no known map. The error is often compounded by the researcher in deciphering the scrawl of the enumerator. But these difficulties were marginal, and surnames were usually identifiable after careful consideration of the possibilities and a cross-check in communal records. I found that I was stood in good stead by my own attempts to fill in forms for my Asian employees.
Any own first index was simply arranged alphabetically by surname. Later, I found it easier to check doubtful names by also producing card index of streets. This made it possible to cross-check with those synagogue and subscription lists in which addresses were given. In deciding on the ultimate form of a name, I opted for the one chosen by the Jewish organisation. Finally, I think it should be stated that the use of census material is a matter of interest as well as of research. The recognition of the ancestors of friends and acquaintances is itself a source of pleasure, and those interested, like myself, in family history will at once recognise the value of the census for genealogical research. Miscellaneous information is obtained, in passing, about famous national or local figures, about the large and prestigious households of the rich, the crammed cellars and hovels of the poor, and the colourful occupants of down-town lodging homes. Often it is worthwhile to obtain information about the non-Jewish houses or institutions in a Jewish area, if only to obtain a fuller idea of the general character of the district. Census work can also be a family pastime. Both my children accompanied me to the library and helped with the recorder or the reader, and my daughter Nathalie (aged 9) persued a study of her own into the Manchester tailoring trade.
May I end with the hope that this paper will promote further research of the same significant but pleasureable kind in other parts of Anglo-Jewry?
Martin A. Glaskie
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