Family History Federation

Topsham Labouring Census – 1841

This booklet was compiled by members of the Devon Family History Society in co-operation with the Devon Records Office. The booklet provides an extract of some information and further details may be obtained from the Devon Records Office. Family historians are skilled at using the census returns from 1841 to 1901 for their research, but many people do not realise that there some surviving earlier censuses which, although providing less information, can often be just as useful. This census for Topsham covers ‘a portion of the labouring population’ only and was drawn up in February 1841 by Henry Troake at the request of Francis Davy, the churchwarden. In fact, it seems to have been an attempt to keep track of those who were likely to require poor relief since it includes each person’s place of settlement, so that if they did need relief, it would be easy enough to find out which parish was responsible for them. The names are set out in alphabetical order of surname, with the head of the household first, followed, in the case of a married man, by his wife’s name, then columns for their ages and their abode, usually the street in Topsham where they lived. Next the occupation of the head is given in the case of a man, but if the head is a woman, her occupation is ‘widow’ rather than the work she did to earn a living. The next columns are for the number of children, including unmarried adult children, with their names and ages. Then there is a narrow column headed ‘Relief’ with later pencil notes of the amount of money paid out, and finally a column headed ‘Remarks’ which is used for notes such as ‘Cripple’ and ‘Idiot’. Paupers are included if they are chargeable to Topsham parish but living elsewhere. For example, Mary, Joseph and Harriet Wills are deserted children living in Broadclyst and Mary Selway is a lunatic living in ‘Bethelem Hospital’. An asterisk shows that there are notes written in pencil. Although the census includes only a percentage of Topsham people, it is useful in that it gives more information than the official 1841 census taken a month later. The ages quoted are accurate instead of rounded down and the relationship of family members to the head is given. The place of settlement can give a clue as to place of birth, which is not included at all in the 1841 census.


SKU : D054

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