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Digital Subscriptions > Family Tree > Family Tree October 2019 > What secrets does the census hold?

What secrets does the census hold?

Just one page of the 1881 Census gave Ann Simcock a multitude of clues to piece her ancestors’ lives together and solve a brick wall. Here she explains how she uncovered family secrets hidden in these key Victorian records

Midnight on Sunday, 5 April 1881 was a moment frozen in time, a snapshot of where everyone was on that night.

I was searching for my greatgrandmother, Mary Woodvine, (1865-1936) and her future husband, Thomas William Yale, (1858-1899).

My early research had followed conventional lines. Starting with my grandmother, Julia Yale (1892- 1923), working backwards, I found her parents, Thomas William Yale, boiler man and Mary Yale, née Woodvine. When did they marry? – 20th December 1886. From the 1891 Census their children were, Joshua 10, Mary E 8, Martha E 5, Thomas William 3, and Alice Jane 9 months.

However, neither partner was to be found in 1881. From the 1891 Census Joshua was aged 10, this was a concern as Mary was only 25. Searches for Joshua’s birth proved fruitless.

Eventually the only possible candidate was a Josiah Barker Woodvine born 14 March 1881. A possible scenario was that a Josiah Barker was the father.

A search for this hypothetical father returned a positive result, household schedule 224, piece 2728, folio 108, page 45, address: 2 Johnson’s Square, Stoke on Trent.

The Municipal Borough (1874) of Stoke at this time was still independent, the six towns of Tunstall, Burslem, Hanley, Stoke, Fenton and Longton were still 29 years from amalgamation into Stoke on Trent, vying with each other for prominence, not least in the grandeur of their town halls, Stoke’s being built between 1834 and 1850. Amenities also included a substantial railway junction, tramways, a canal wharf, gas lighting, library and School of Science. An advertising and trade journal boasted ‘few towns in the Kingdom…contain so many wide and well-paved streets’. However, this seeming modernity and prosperity was not reflected in 2 Johnson’s Square.

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The shops are piled high with ‘back to school’ preparations for the children. But these new beginnings, plans and dreams aren’t just for the kids. This autumn set yourself the goal to learn more too – to devote more time to your family history! In our latest issue we’ve got three cracking ways to make strides in your family history know-how: 1. New to family history? Check out our 8 page guide packed with info on the essential websites – where to search and what to look for. Follow our advice and watch your tree grow in no time! 2. Want to get organised? Already been doing family history a while? Learn new ways to organise the fruits of your family history labour. Check out professional researcher Susie Douglas’s flexible and affordable strategy for super-organised family history records. 3. Immerse yourself in family history From genning up on the latest DNA know-how, discovering the latest new books and events, learning sleuthing skills from our experts’ advice, and enjoying the reader stories – we have page after page to inspire you on your family history mission. Enjoy!