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Census 1911 Case Study: J M Barrie

James Matthew Barrie was born in Scotland in 1860, the ninth child of ten. His idea for the ‘boy who never grew up’ is believed to have stemmed from the death of his older brother, David, following an ice-skating accident at the age of 13. His mother was devastated by the death and to her, David would never grow up, but would remain a boy forever.

James Barrie became the guardian of 5 young boys in 1910 after the death of their parents, Arthur and Sylvia Llewelyn Davies. The 2004 film ‘Finding Neverland’ was based on Barrie’s relationship with the Llewelyn Davies family. Before his death, Barrie gave the rights to the Peter Pan works to Great Ormond Street Hospital, which continues to benefit from them.

Barrie is recorded on the 1911 census with two of the younger boys Michael and Nicholas ‘Nico’ Davies, and the 5 brothers were the inspiration for the Lost Boys of the Peter Pan story. His other works include the comedy play ‘Quality Street’ which also provided the name of the sweets created in 1936, now owned by Nestle.

To find J. M. Barrie in the 1911 Census, I used the Keyword Master Search at I entered his surname only, as I was not sure how his forename may have been recorded. As I know he was an author, I entered 'author' in the keyword box. I also chose to use their "Smart Variants" search, which searches for different spellings of the name entered, in case it was spelt incorrectly on the census forms.

Once I'd clicked 'Search', I was given one result, which was the person I was looking for! I then had the option of viewing a full transcript for the household, or of viewing the original census image. There was also a link to the cover image and an address image for their census form.

J M Barrie in the London 1911 Census

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