Well it is Wedding Wednesday again. This is me and husband! Following on from yesterday's post about how the horizontal lines on a family tree diagram probably hide all sorts of personal stories, I have been thinking about how much can happen in a ten year period.
We tend to look at a census return and see who is living within a particular household. Then try to draw conclusions from that "moment in time" which has been set down on paper. The census must record who is in a particular property on that particular night in that particular year. There is no note of why the people are there. So when, in our own research or during a Who Do You Think You Are? episode, we find families in, say, 1881, 1891 and 1901, it is tempting to think of that information as a complete record of the family's situation for that thirty years.
"Oh look, they are all still together" followed by "The mother has died but it looks like the son has moved back in with his family" and many other endless possibilities.
These "conclusions" simplify, to say the least, the situation in which the family found itself in real life. There might have been a ten year struggle to keep a business going, culminating in a family having to all share one house again whilst hating the sight of each other, for example!
What has this to do with Wedding Wednesday? Actually it is not so much about my wedding as in the idea of the conclusions which will be drawn from my own "contribution" to censuses during my lifetime. My then boyfriend and I moved to London five years before we married. We had both been students so I believe that we would show up on our parents' census returns for 1991 but we might be on halls of residence returns. We will not show on another census until 2001. Still in London but no details of our lives, how many addresses, our careers. I left my job to start cooking school the year after the census and by the time of the next census, I was a stay at home parent - so the "cooking phase" will not show up at all on job descriptions for censuses!
Our wedding was in Chelsea. My husband was keen for a Catholic wedding and we lived in Walthamstow - in a our first much loved bought home. However. the local Catholic Church was next the North Circular Road and opposite Walthamstow Dog Track so I (understandably, I believe!) started looking for somewhere a bit more picturesque! Boy, is that going to confuse future research. "Well, they must have had terrible luck. They married in Chelsea behind Sloane Square and three years later, I have found them on a census in a two up, two down in Walthamstow". See what I mean? Easy to draw conclusions, isn't it?!
So whilst it is wonderful to have access to censuses, it is important to keep their information in perspective. It is definitely possible that that relative that you have assumed was back living with his parents and down on his luck was actually staying there because he had had a heavy night on the beer or because his wife had thrown him out for the night but they patched things up in the morning....
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/records/catalogues-and-online-records.htm will take you to the free census records up to 1911 if you wish to take a look at your own relations' moments in time!