In 2015, on one of my other blogs, I wrote a post for National Handwriting Day (January 23rd). This year I've been thinking about my ancestors' handwriting and remembered that in 1911 the completed census forms were retained for the first time. These records provide a good resource for looking at the handwriting of your ancestors.
The 1911 Census of England and Wales was taken on the night of Sunday, 2 April 1911. Prior to that day, householders were left a form requesting the following information be provided for every person staying at the house on the night of 2 April:
Information requests new to the 1911 census were the ‘fertility census’ and occupational questions. Fertility questions included how long a present marriage had lasted, the number of children born alive to the present marriage (including children no longer living in the household), and number of children who had died. Questions about employment were meant to give the government a general idea of which industries were in decline and which were growing; however, many people provided far more information than was needed, recording the name and sometimes address of their employer in addition to the industry that employed them.
After enumerators collected the householders’ forms, they copied the information into enumerator’s books, which were sent to London. For censuses prior to 1911, the householders’ forms were destroyed, and the enumerator’s books are all that survive. However, in 1911, for the first time the actual householders’ forms—typically in their own handwriting—were preserved as well.
I have been able to find most of my ancestors who were alive in 1911 recorded on the census forms. In most cases the form was signed by the male head of the household. It's interesting to see that they could all write and that some of them had beautiful handwriting. Although some is neater and better formed than others.
Great Great Grandparents
And a puzzle....
According to my husband Michael's mother, Rose Murray, her father Maurice John Arthur Murray was renowned within his community for his beautiful handwriting. Certainly his entries on the 1911 census form confirm that assertion.
Now here's the puzzle.
Why did someone else sign the form?
Whoever it was has less well-formed handwriting and doesn't spell Murray correctly.
Did Maurice go off to his employment as a carman and forget to complete the form? And then when his wife handed the form to the enumerator was a signature demanded from her? So, is this the handwriting of my husband's grandmother, Sarah Murray (Joseph) 1885 - 1958? Or a neighbour? Or the enumerator? Michael doesn't recognise the handwriting but guesses, like me, that it was probably Sarah who finished the form off.
Sarah is the jolly looking woman on the left of the photo as you're looking at it.
The man in the centre (we were told by Michael's mum Rose) is Mr Phipps. The Electoral Registers identify him as Mr Thomas Phipps. His wife was Ada Phipps so maybe the other person in the photograph is her. Sarah looks as though she's wearing a paper hat but what they're doing and when the photo was taken is anyone's guess. I wonder why we never asked Rose for more information about it. Too late now: although Rose lived until she was ninety eight she died in 2006 so what ever she might have known is lost for ever.