Local Communities in the Victorian Census Enumerators’ Books edited by Dennis Mills and Kevin Schürer. Produced by Local Population Studies, Department of History, University of Essex, Colchseter, CO4 3SQ. Published by Leopard’s Head Press Ltd., 1-5 Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3AW. 1996. x, 450 pp. Charts, illustrations, index, maps. Paperback. £12.50.

The census enumerator’s books (CEBs) are a very commonly utilized tools for genealogical research in England and Wales. They do differ markedly from the census returns used in the US in content, but more importantly is the fact that the information was recorded on one night, the same night all over England and Wales.

This book is divided into six sections, each developing a particular theme. These themes are: the enumeration process; population and demography; employment and occupations; migration and population turnover; family and household structures; residential patterns. Each new section has a chapter written by the editors which explores the potential and possibilities of the CEBs in relation to the themes in question, as well as providing an overview of previous research work and the approaches taken. The points raised in the editorials are illustrated in chapters based on revised and updated articles which were originally published in the Local Population Studies journal.

Tucked into the chapters are lots of material of use to the genealogist, for example, a list of all published census reports, 1801-1901. I especially found the chapter “A floating population: vessel enumeration returns, 1851-1921” helpful in explaining how the system for maritime censuses worked and its great limitations, plus what effect ships can have on the published statistics of a community. Two chapters examine the accuracy of reported ages, two others look at combining the census with other records such as estate maps and tithe maps, other chapters look at occupations and population movement.

The is an excellent book for those who want to go beyond finding their own individual ancestor to an examination of the community in which they lived. It provides examples of studies done elsewhere and may give an example with which to compare your ancestors community. There is a very extensive accumulated bibliography included.

Reviewed by Paul Milner
BIGWILL v.6 no.2, 1999