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Posts tagged ‘The National Archives’

The 2011 Census: History and Research for Liverpool (or, Why fill in the census? A historian’s perspective)

Photograph of the Scandinavian Seamen's Church, Liverpool

20100626_Liverpool_views_013, by Friar's Balsam, via Flickr

This year sees another census taking place across the United Kingdom. Censuses have been carried out in the UK every ten years since 1801 (with the exception of 1941 – the Second World War) and are therefore are amazing sources of information for family historians. Alongside other sources they can also be useful to the local historian, and it’s becoming increasingly easy to get your hands on them.

A History of Censuses

The first census in England produced perhaps the defining document of the medieval country: the Domesday Book.

The Book was produced as a way of measuring the wealth, and therefore taxability, of the whole of England, and was perhaps the natural thing for a new, invading, king to administer. Some unconquered parts of England were not included in the survey (notably parts of Cumberland and Westmorland), but for the majority of the country, Domesday Book continues to be an important primary source of information, including as it does the size of land divisions, industry, animal holdings and land owners’ names.

It’s probably well known that Liverpool, having yet to be founded, does not appear at all in Domesday. But many places on Merseyside do, including West Derby, Toxteth, Aigburth, Croxteth and Garston.

The Domesday Book has been an invaluable resource for local historians for years, and is these days available in modern published versions (such as the Penguin Classics translated version). Also, you’ll find the Victoria County History (if you can get your hands on one) bases its organisation on the Book. In turn, I based Historic Liverpool on the VCH, which is why this history of Liverpool is is divided into the townships found in these Victorian volumes.

Modern Censuses

The first modern UK Census took place in 1801, and the exercise was repeated every 10 years after that (along with some at the five year point in between).

For family history purposes, 1841 marked an important change: whereas the first four surveys had simply collected head counts in all regions, this one included the names of all people living in each household.

The 1911 census, released two years ago is the first one where you can read the form filled in by your ancestors (see also www.1911census.co.uk).

The next census will take place this year, on 27th March. There’s a £1000 fine for not filling it in, but also remember the legacy you’re leaving for future family historians (one you’ve enjoyed yourself as a researcher, perhaps). Liverpool City Council is launching a campaign to encourage people to register as central government money is allocated based on population. So current and future censuses still play the role they did back in 1801.

Research using censuses

If you’re a family historian you probably already know the many ins and outs of research with censuses. Many of the older ones are available online (with newer ones becoming available gradually under the 100 year rule). So what can you do with the census data as a local (as opposed to family) historian?

  1. For city historians the censuses can be used in a similar to Gore’s Directory: if you’re studying a small area then cross reference the addresses with the professions mentioned, and you have a good idea of the character of an area. Was it a residential area full of dock workers? Were there corner shops in the area? Or pubs? Was it a richer area full of merchants, factory owners and diplomats?
  2. Landscape change over time: following on from the above point, perhaps you want to know how a residential area changed over time. In Liverpool, Everton, Toxteth and Kirkdale were the first suburbs, expanding to cater to the rich who wanted to escape the city. Later these areas were covered with terraces for dockworkers. Later still the slums were cleared and modern housing erected in its place. While old maps can show direct evidence for this change, the census adds an extra layer of detail.
  3. Immigration: for Liverpool as much as other cities, many events and the tale of expansion are related to the areas in which incoming migrants lived. In our city (‘our’ in the most inclusive sense!) Welsh communities could be found in the north and east, the Scottish in the north and centre, Jews first around Brownlow Hill and then in the southern suburbs (Childwall, Allerton and Gatacre), the Chinese in… well, Chinatown, and the Scandinavians in Liverpool’s ‘Sailortown’ (Park Lane area). Censuses fit in here as they contain information on religion and language, and therefore the culture of different communities.
  4. If you’re more technically minded, you might even make use of the National Archives’ Domesday on a Map, or its Domesday Places dataset.

Perhaps you have other suggestions for uses of census data in local history; feel free to share them with us in the comments!

Recommended Read

Book cover for Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors, by Mike RoydenIf you’re interested in finding out more about your ancestors (as is the most usual role for the census!) then there’s no better place to start than Tracing Your Liverpool Ancestors: A guide for family historians, by noted Liverpool historian Mike Royden. Mike is the man behind the Local History Pages, and has also appeared on TV and local radio. The book also contains a lot of local history too, as historical context is ever important when researching your family tree!

Liverpool History News Roundup

Screenshot of The National Archives' Domesday on a Map tool

The National Archives' Domesday on a Map tool

Having written about the bigger themes this week, I’ve had to skip past a few other interesting links related to the history of Liverpool. So here they are, just for you:

Firstly, as an excitable mapping/interactive/web geek, I was interested in the new Domesday on a Map tool from The National Archives.

This, as the name might suggest, is a map showing all the places mentioned in the Domesday Book.  You have to zoom in to see any detail, but once there you get markers indicate the places named in Domesday, with an outline of the rough extent of the manor.

Click on the markers to see the historic name of the place (in 1086) and the page of the Book on which its described.

Director of Technology and Chief Information Officer David Thomas tells us why the map was produced in his blog post on the topic.

Domesday Book predated Liverpool by about 200 years, but a couple of places in the area were very important at the time, and get an entry: West Derby, Woolton, Toxteth and Childwall amongst others.

Whether or not your local history research is in Liverpool, Domesday on a Map is definitely must-see.

Planning permission was submitted to Liverpool City Council last Monday, 4th October, for Liverpool Waters, a plan to develop 150 acres of Merseyside docklands.

The scheme will include the tallest building outside London (possibly to be dubbed the “Shanghai Tower“), and for better or worse will transform Liverpool’s skyline.

Permission has already been granted for Wirral Waters, a similar scheme for the waterfront on the south side of the Mersey.

Planning permission documents have also been submitted for a stretch of Edge Lane including the retail parks and industrial areas.

The scheme will cost £200m and include a new park in addition to ‘leisure and retail units’ (“shops” to you and me).

The Merseyside Civic Society have awarded 8 different projects in four different categories at its relaunched awards scheme.

The categories are best New Build, Green Space, Open Space and Refurbishment. Read the full article on the MCS Awards website.

As two of my regular reads collide, SevenStreets has an article on Colin Wilkinson’s Streets of Liverpool, a site of interest to anyone reading this post I should think.

As well as discussion of how the site started, Colin describes how he came to where he is now, via the Open Eye gallery on the corner of Whitechapel to the Bluecoat Press which he has run since 1992. There are also a couple of classic photos from Colin’s archives.

Well, that’s it for now. Hopefully I’ll have some more Historic Liverpool news sooner or later, as I’m trying to find time for more additions to that site.

National Archives UK Photo Finder

Photo card showing the Cunard Building and the Liver Building, from The National Archives

Cunard and Liverpool Buildings, Liverpool, Lancs., from UK Photo Finder

The National Archives have produced UK Photo Finder, a map-based tool for finding historic photos in your area.

The free tool is one of their ‘Lab’ projects, and so is open for comments and queries, though you may find a few bugs here and there (one user found it doesn’t work on Firefox for the Mac, and I’ve found it can occasionally refresh at annoying moments). Nip on to the site and have a play around.

There are 31 photos of Liverpool City Centre (although there’s a sneaky one of the Sefton Park Peter Pan statue in there); 5 attached to Huyton; and 18 on the Wirral.

The images are also shown attached to their record cards, keeping the photos ‘in context’ as archives, not just as photographs.

The photos at the moment are exclusively from the important Dixon-Scott collection, although I suspect that if this pilot is successful, they will extend it to other collections. I hope they do, as this is a really great site. Dixon-Scott is of great interest to readers of this blog, as he saw and recorded the changing landscape of Britain with the expressed aim of preserving what he saw as the disappearing landscape.

It’s also quiet similar to the independently produced (and ‘crowd-sourced’) Historypin project, which I also recommend you have a look at (and which also has a few bugs to iron out).