The Roe family in Biggleswade: double counting in the 1841 census?

The 1841 census finds my 3 x great grandmother Eliza Roe, 40, and her children Hannah Roe, 15, Daniel Roe, 13, Richard Roe, 12, Eliza Roe, 10, and Caleb Roe, 8, living at Sand Pitts, Biggleswade. At the same address, but constituting a separate household, is Thomas Mays, 55, a pensioner.  The Roes’ house falls under Biggleswade District 4 in the census return, described as follows:

Biggleswade all that part of the Township which lies on the North and Southern sides of Back Street from Bonds Corner to the Hound post on the London road and to Squires’s Barn on the Potton road.

In common with many records from this census, the original documents can be difficult to read and the information in them is relatively scanty. Many of the streets included in District 4 are actually ‘yards’ of one kind or another – Back Street ran parallel to the High Street. Sand Pitts is almost certainly equivalent to modern Sand Lane, which runs south from the High Street and is not far from Back Street where (as I noted in an earlier post) Caleb and Ann Evans, and their daughter Martha Bowtell and her family, were living at this time.

Sand Lane, Biggleswade (Google Maps)

However, if we look at the records for the neighbouring District 3 in the same census, we find the following curious information. In St. Andrews Street (which runs north to south, at 90 degrees to the High Street, to the west of the town), we find Elizabeth Roe, 8 and Caleb Roe, 6, in the household of agricultural labourer James Milton, 46, his wife Elizabeth, also 46, daughter Elizabeth, 22, and son James, 20 (the Ancestry record transcribes their surname as Melton, but it can be confirmed as Milton by cross-checking with the 1851 census and other records). Five houses from the Miltons’ home we come across another curiosity. Here we find Eliza Roe, 39, and Hannah Roe, 15, sharing a household with one George Miller, 23. The original document is extremely faint, and it’s almost impossible to read details of occupation, but Eliza’s might just be ‘house (servant?)’

How are we to explain these anomalies? I suppose it’s just about conceivable that there were two Eliza, Hannah, Caleb and young Eliza Roes living in Biggleswade at the time, but it seems unlikely, especially as the ages are more or less identical. It’s almost certain that the duplication is the result of double counting, despite the fact that measures were taken in organising the 1841 census to avoid this happening. Apparently, enumeration districts were drawn so as to make it possible for an enumerator to complete his work in one day: it seems that one enumerator was appointed per district and forms were delivered to each household a few days before the census day  – in this case 6th June. These were to be completed by the householder and collected by the enumerator on 7th June; the enumerator would help in completing the form if the householder was illiterate.

Despite these good intentions, it seems likely that Districts 3 and 4 in Biggleswade were counted either on separate days or at different times on the same day. Perhaps District 3, which included St. Andrews Street, was surveyed during the day time, when Eliza and Hannah were at work in someone else’s house and the two younger children were being looked after by the Miltons nearby. Alternatively, if the records were completed by householders themselves, perhaps Thomas Mays filled in the form for the house in Sand Pitts, unaware that on the other side of town, the Miltons were including Caleb and young Eliza in their return, while Eliza and Hannah were also entered (by Eliza? by her employer?) in a separate record.

Whatever the explanation, the fact that we have duplicate records for the Roe family in the 1841 census record provides us with additional opportunities to explore their lives and relationships at this time. Taking the Sand Pitts address first, the obvious question prompted by this record is: who was Thomas Mays? Ron Roe has already discovered that, at the wedding of John Roe and Hannah Role in Layston, Hertfordshire, in 1795, two of the witnesses were John and Ann Mays. One theory is that John and Hannah Roe were the parents of Eliza’s husband Daniel Roe: the presence of a member of the Mays family in Eliza’s house in 1841 would certainly seem to confirm some kind of link between the Biggleswade and Layston Roes.

I’ve discovered that Thomas was almost certainly born in Layston in 1789, the eldest son of John and Ann Mays. They had at least four other children: Sarah (1792), Mary, (1795) John (1805)and Catherine (1808). He’s probably the Thomas Mays who married Sarah Scoot in Layston in 1811; they had a daughter, Sarah, born in Layston in the following year. Unfortunatey, I haven’t been able to find any information about the marriage of John and Ann Mays. If (as I suspect) Ann was a relative of John Roe (his sister?), it would confirm the connection between the two families and explain why Thomas was living with the widowed Eliza Roe in 1841: perhaps he was her late husband Daniel’s cousin? I haven’t been able to find Thomas Mays in the 1851 census, though someone of that name died in Biggleswade in 1854. If it’s ‘our’ Thomas, then he would have been about 75 years old (N.B. ages were often rounded up or down in the 1841 census, so the 55 recorded for Thomas at that time should have been 52).

Junction of St. Andrews Street and High Street, Biggleswade

Turning to the St. Andrews Street record, it might be useful to list the various households in the section of the street where the Roes are to be found:

The house before the Miltons’ (where Caleb and young Eliza were staying) is occupied by Richard Huckle, 45, who I think is an agricultural labourer, Elizabeth Huckle, 35, Richard Huckle, 20, also apparently an agricultural labourer, Mary Huckle, 10, and William Huckle, 3.

On the other side of the Miltons we find William Crowther, 35, Lucy Crowther, 30, Ann Crowther, 15, Elizabeth Crowther, 7, and Sarah George (?), 8.

The next house is occupied by Charles Huckle, 25, Sarah Huckle, 30, Emma Huckle, 7, Eliza Huckle, 5, Charles Huckle, 4,  and one more Huckle child (name illegible), 8 months.

Next is the home of agricultural labourer John Cole, 38, Maria Cole, 30, William Cole, 12, Susan Cole, 4, and James Cole, 1.

Then comes a building seemingly occupied by three households: first, Raymond Bigman (?), 40, an agricultural labourer, and Charlotte Bigman, 30; then John Philips, 30, whose occupation is unclear, his wife (?), also 30, whose name has been transcribed by Ancestry as ‘Willette’, and Charlotte Philips, 4; thirdly, Mary Pateman, 60, occupation unclear.

Then, in the house immediately before the one in which we find Eliza and Hannah Roe, is John Green, a gardener of 64, and Sarah Green, 60.

As already mentioned, Eliza and Hannah Roe seem to be sharing a house with a 23 year old man by the name of George, whose surname and occupation are both unclear, though I have an idea that he might be some kind of servant.

The next house is occupied by Cornelius and Rebecca Pope, both 25, together with Elizabeth Pope, 2, and Rebecca Pope, 9 months and Ann Gunnett, who seems to be a servant.

The final house in St. Andrews Street before the High Street is home to widow Ann Ansell, 50, dressmaker Martha Ansell, 20, and agricultural labourers William Ansell, 15 and Charles Ansell, 13.

A glance at the 1851 census for St. Andrews Street helps to clarify some of this information. At this date, Richard Huckle, now said to be 65 (suggesting a mistake in the earlier census, as it seems to be the same person) is still there, with his dressmaker daughter, Maryann, now 19, and agricultural labourer son William, 13. But there’s no sign of Richard’s wife Elizabeth, suggesting that she might have died in the interim.

James and Elizabeth Milton, both 61, who were looking after Caleb and young Eliza in 1841, are still next door to the Huckles. James now works as a merchant’s labourer, while his son James, 32, is still at home and working as an agricultural labourer. Daughter Elizabeth appears to have left home.

As before, William and Lucy Crowther and family are still their neighbours, and still have three children – Ann, Betsy and George – living at home.

There’s no sign, though, of the families of Charles Huckle, John Cole, Raymond Bigman or John Philips, either here or elsewhere in St. Andrews Street. The next household mentioned is that of gardener John Green, now  74 and a widower, and his two lodgers. Nor is there a gap this time between John Green’s house and that of Cornelius Pope, now decribed as clerk to a coal, corn and wine merchant, and his wife, seven children, servant and visitor (in a later census, Cornelius is described as the manager of Blunham mill).

When I first came across these census records, my attention was caught immediately by the number of Huckles living in the street, close to where the Roes could be found. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve found a William Roe, shoemaker, in Luton in 1851, whose wife’s maiden name was Sarah Huckle. Ever since, I’ve been trying to find a link between the Huckles – either of Luton or Biggleswade – and ‘our’ Roes, in the hope of proving a connection with the Luton Roes. (This search has intensified since I made contact with a Huckle family researcher who believes that her forebears were almost certainly Baptists.) Now, thanks to this double counting in the 1841 census, I think I may have found it.

It turns out that the maiden name of Elizabeth Milton – who was minding Caleb and Eliza Roe at the time of the census – was Huckle. She was born in 1790 and married James Milton in 1817. Furthermore, she was almost certainly the sister of Richard Huckle, who lived next door to the Miltons in St. Andrews Street. They were among the children of another Richard Huckle and his wife Elizabeth. I’m not sure how they were related to the Charles Huckle living two doors away on the other side: Charles married Sarah Beard in 1831 and he appears to have been born in 1815, the son of Thomas and Ann Huckle.

It’s possible, of course, that Eliza Roe left her two children with a friend, not a relative, on 6th June 1841, and that the Huckle connection is a red herring. On the other hand, it could be the missing link that connects Daniel Roe to the Roes of Luton. I’ll return to this in a future post.

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One Response to The Roe family in Biggleswade: double counting in the 1841 census?

  1. Pingback: The Roes of Luton revisited « Martin Robb’s Family History Blog

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