Information relating to individuals within the census is closed to the public for 100 years but after that time it is made available for people to study. This is when it comes into its own as an historical source.
The censuses for Jersey from 1841-1911 are available to study and they give us a great deal of information about our ancestors and where they were living.
Researchers can track back a particular family through the decades in order to find out how their circumstances have developed and changed over time. Otherwise they can spot someone familiar who was only in the Island for a short period of time.
A slightly unexpected visitor can be seen in the 1861 census. At Bree’s Boarding House in David Place, now the Royal Hotel, among a Wesleyan minister, a naval officer, a Major General and Lord and Lady Elibank, appears a seven-year-old by the name of Cecil J Rhodes.
Research confirms that this was the infamous English imperialist, politician and wealthy businessman Cecil John Rhodes. He was accompanied by his aunt, Sophia Peacock. As he is known to have suffered from asthma as a child it is likely they had come to Jersey for this reason – as the Island was perceived to provide a healthier climate for such ailments.
The 1861 census also sees the first appearance of another familiar seven-year-old in the records. Emelie Le Breton can be seen living at the Rectory with her mother and siblings together with a number of servants. There is nothing to suggest that this little girl would go on to become world-famous actress Lillie Langtry. She can be found ten years later, at the age of 17, still living with her family. Her father, William Corbet Le Breton, was present as the Dean of Jersey and her brother Clement is noted as an ensign of the 15th fusiliers.
Another youngster who can be found pre-fame is seen on both the 1871 and 1881 censuses – Henry Vardon. He appears on the earlier census, aged 11 months, living at Amitie Lodge on Gorey Common and head of the household at the time was his father Philip, who was listed as a farm servant.
Ten years later 12-year-old Henry Vardon is living with his family on Grouville Common, appropriately on the site of what is now the 12th fairway at the Royal Jersey Golf Club. Better known as Harry, he would go on to become one of the greatest British golfers of all time, winning a record-breaking six Open Championships.
Other individuals can be found in the Island later in their life such as General Georges du Boulanger, who was a French general, minister of war and political figure. He led a brief but influential authoritarian movement which threatened to topple the Third Republic in the 1880s and can be seen living in St Brelade’s Bay in the 1891 census. He had fled France after a warrant for his arrest for conspiracy and treason had been issued and is listed as living in the property St Brelade’s Villa with a retinue of nine servants. He was only in the Island for a short time longer, leaving for Brussels in May 1891 before committing suicide on the grave of his mistress, Madame de Bonnemains.
Other people who have had a massive influence on the Island can be spotted in various censuses. Hugh de la Haye, a 46-year-old farmer of nine acres, can be seen living at his property Bushy Farm, overlooking Bellozanne Valley, with a servant in the 1881 census. Just the previous year, as the story is told, he had planted two huge round potatoes with 16 eyes that had been presented to him as curiosities at Le Caudey’s stores on the Esplanade. The giant spuds produced a plentiful early harvest of kidney-shaped potatoes, which would be presented as the Royal Jersey Flukes and would change Jersey’s agricultural history. All the Jersey Royals that we know today derived from those potatoes grown at Mont Côchon.
To a certain extent you expect people to be slightly shorter-lived in the Victorian era but this was not always the case. The 1851 census includes Elias Filleul, a retired tailor who was living with his son-in-law and daughter in Le Hocq, and was recorded as being 100 years of age.
Similarly, in the 1881 census Louisa Robinson, of 3 Richmond Place, Clarendon Road, was 100 years old. In the house with her was her unmarried daughter, also called Louisa, who was 70 years of age, together with two servants.
Within the General Hospital, also in the 1891 census, can be found Charlotte Beckford, a widow of 103 years old. She was born in New Brunswick, St John, in Canada, so presumably her family may have had something to do with the cod-fishing trade.
At the other end of the scale there is the family of Alfred Francis George Allo who in the 1911 census was 39 and living at Bel Royal. He was listed with his wife, Margaret, his son Alfred and ‘a boy born yesterday, 1st April.’ He was so new that they hadn’t even named him by the time the census was taken. He would go on to be named George Hugh Allo.
In 1871 another youngster is listed with a slightly unexpected occupation. Philip de Carteret, a 46-year-old landowner living in Westbourne Terrace, in St Saviour, noted his two-year-old son Aubrey’s job as ‘mischief’.
From 1841 there is a separate district for those who were in prison and in the 1851 census can be found 49-year-old William Patch from Devon, who was in prison for debt. Also noted as being in the prison at the time was his wife Mary, whose occupation was noted as ‘nurse to her husband, who is blind’.
Listings of other institutions and those on ships at the Harbour can also be found in the census. In the 1911 census a variety of ships are listed, with details given of their crew on board. The census was taken on 2 April that year and a note appears on the return for the ship Hero that, ‘Vessel at midnight on April 2nd in English Channel.’ There must have been a decision whether to list it in the Jersey census or where it had started its journey. In the end Elias Rive and his crew were registered in the Island.
It’s interesting looking at the Victoria College House returns within the 1911 census. It gives a sense of how international the pupils of the school were at the time. The headmaster was J Lester-Garland and boarding within the house were pupils born in Gran Canaria, India, Siam and the United States of America as well as closer to home in the United Kingdom.
The census aims to capture everyone in the Island on a particular day but this almost wasn’t the case in the 1881 census when 3, Douro Terrace, in St Saviour, is listed at the end of its enumeration district. A note was added in the margin of the record noting that the property was ‘left unenumerated, the enumerator was under the impression that this house was situated on St Helier’s Parish, the case being peculiar as part of the house is on one parish and the other part on the other’. Fortunately, the error was realised and they were able to capture those details so that we can view them today.