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Monday, 8 August 2016

The special value of Census records from 1850/51

With today being Census day here in Australia, we were invited to think about the significance of census records and how they have helped us in our search for family history and possibly revealed anything surprising. The 1850 census in America and the 1851 census in the United Kingdom are particularly relevant for most of my husband's paternal ancestors and for some of my own ancestors too, because they were the last censuses in which these ancestors were recorded at home, before they emigrated to either Australia or New Zealand  in the early 1850s.

In 1850 American Davis Calwell was aged 19 and was residing in the township of North Beaver, county of Lawrence, Pennsylvania with his mother Jane, his stepfather John K Swisher, his sister Martha and several of his step siblings. Three of his own older siblings were married and living elsewhere but I haven't yet found where younger sister Elizabeth Jane Calwell was in 1850. Sometimes census records raise as many questions as they answer! I do know however that Elizabeth subsequently married her step-brother James P Swisher, who is shown on the census record below, and that Martha married step-brother Francis Marion Swisher, also listed. Brother Davis did not approve, but by that time he and his brother Dan had left for Australia to try their luck in the gold fields of Victoria, so there was not much he could do about it. 

 Meanwhile it appears that in 1851 Davis Calwell's future bride Elizabeth Lewis who was born in Pembrokeshire Wales was working as a servant for a family in Teddington Middlesex. Her brother George and sister Jane were also living in London and in 1853 they emigrated to Victoria in 1853, together with George's wife and family and Jane's new husband, William Cleaves. I don't know how Davis and Elizabeth happened to meet, but they were married in St John's Church Melbourne in 1856.


Davis Calwell [aka Caldwell] with the Swisher family in North Beaver Pa in 1850


Elizabeth Lewis working for the Mackay family in  Teddington Middlesex in 1851

 Dan Hogue Calwell, son of Davis and Elizabeth, married Annie Corrie, whose father Thomas Wilkin Corrie was living in Birkenhead Cheshire in 1851 before emigrating and whose mother Jessie Stevenson was aged 9 and living with a Mrs Janet Duncan and Janet's son Charles in Gorbals, Lanarkshire in 1851 before emigrating in 1853. Thomas must have been been about 15 in 1851, although his age on the census isn't clear.

Thos. W Corrie with his parents and siblings in Birkenhead, Cheshire in 1851

Dan and Annie's daughter Grace Eleanor Calwell married Joseph Henry Featherston, whose grandparents Ralph Featherston and wife Mary Greggs were living at Hawkwellhead in Stanhope, Durham in 1851 before they also decided to make the journey to Australia in 1853. They settled near Ballarat and their son Joseph, father of Joseph Henry, was born in Snake Valley. He met and married Margaret Splatt Neilson, whose parents were both Scots. Her father Daniel Neilson was aged 8 and living with his parents William and Margaret and his brother James in Alva Stirlingshire in 1851 before the family emigrated in 1853. A large contingent of Neilsons including William's parents and other members of the family arrived aboard two ships. Margaret Neilson's mother Elizabeth Bernard was just 2 when she arrived in 1854 with her Scottish  parents Alexander Bernard and Margaret Splatt and siblings Janet, Alexander and John. I can't seem to find the Bernard family in either Scotland or England 1851, although they must have been hiding there somewhere! 


Ralph and Mary Featherston  and baby Mary living next door to her parents John and Hannah Greggs in  Hawkwellhead Durham in 1851 


So these census records show how the children of Joseph Henry Featherston and Grace Eleanor Calwell were made up of American, Welsh, English and Scots ancestry, and if their descendants are interested they can return to the locations shown on the censuses to see exactly where their ancestors came from. Whilst in some cases whole families emigrated, in others there are likely to be distant cousins still living there who have no idea that they have Australian relatives. For examle, not many descendants of Davis Calwell's brothers and sisters know that,  but in recent years we have been in touch with a few of them.


 I haven't yet filled out our census form for 9 August 2016, because currently I'm not 100% sure who will be here tonight, Our daughter and granddaughter may or may not be, and I had to ask my husband to return a day early from his business trip to Canberra, because if any of our descendants are looking at this record in 100 years' time, I don't want them thinking that he was living with his mother, with whom he stays while in Canberra. It seems however that there is a section where you can include people who normally live at the address but are temporarily away for various reasons.

Please think of your descendants trying to find out something about you in 2115, and tick the box that authorises your records to be retained. 





4 comments:

  1. Hello Jo! Thank you for joining the blogging challenge. I got half way through the Census form tonight and saved it but joined the throng that couldn't log back in. Poor ABS folk. What a job. I hope they get the returns they need.

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  2. Hi Jo, it looks like census records are most welcome in your research. I use the England / Wales one so it was interesting to see a USA one and learn they wrote "Free Inhabitants" right at the start. Not that long ago either. Fran

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  3. Just out of interest, the most well known descendant of Davis and Elizabeth was their grandson Arthur Calwell.

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  4. Yes we did that but now you've got me wondering about the fact that we included my daughter because she was in Brisbane on business and staying with us and not with her husband in Sydney. Oh well she doesn't have children anyway.

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