Misc - Dick Eastman - Census CD Reviews

S&N Genealogy Supplies has released a huge new resource on CD-ROM disks: the 1891 census of greater London. This new offering fills 38 CD-ROM disks. No, that is not a typo error; it really does fill thirty-eight CDs! For those with a DVD player in their computers, a four-disk DVD version is available.

Census Cds Top of a London 1891 census page

These CD-ROM disks contain approximately 200,000 images of the original census records. Best of all, the manufacturer says that the CD-ROM disks operate on both Windows and Macintosh systems. They will even operate well on older Windows 3.1 systems. In fact, I found that they also work on Linux systems as well. I had a chance to use these CD-ROM disks this week on a Windows 2000 system and on a Linux system and found that they worked well on both operating systems.

The 1891 census was taken on the 5th of April. The enumerators (census takers) recorded the following information for each person: full name, exact age, relationship to the head of household, sex, occupation, parish and county of birth, medical disabilities, and employment status. The census is arranged by registration district and sub-district with street indexes for each district. If you have "end of line" ancestors residing in the greater London area in 1891, you need to look at this census! This census will tell you the location and year of each person's birth. You should note, however, that there is no name index available for the 1891 census. You need to know the address where your ancestor(s) lived. If you only know the area in which he or she lived, you can read all the pages for that area until you find the person you seek.

The 1891 census returns for greater London include the areas of Paddington, Kensington, Fulham, Chelsea, St George Hanover Square, Westminster, Marylebone, Hampstead, Pancras, Islington, Hackney, St Giles, Strand, Holborn, London City, Shoreditch, Bethnal Green, Whitechapel, St George in the East, Stepney, Mile End Old Town, Poplar, St Saviour, Southwark, Lambeth, Wandsworth, Camberwell, Greenwich, Lewisham and Woolwich. Each CD-ROM disk contains a street index that links to the appropriate registration district and the page for the chosen street. Once I located a street in the index, I could click on that street name, and the first page of that street's census returns displayed a second or so later.

All of the images on the 1891 London Census CD-ROM disks are stored in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. Adobe is an excellent choice, as it allows the images to be viewed on Windows, Macintosh and Linux systems as well as a number of other operating systems. The CD-ROM disks include the Windows software for viewing Adobe Acrobat files; users of other operating systems may download the Adobe Acrobat viewer at no charge from http://www.adobe.com.

If you have used Adobe Acrobat Viewer before, you will instantly feel "at home" with these CD-ROM disks. Once images are displayed on your screen, you can zoom in and out, move the image around, and even rotate the image 90 degrees, something that can be useful when printing.

Viewing the original records on your computer screen is a fascinating experience. British schools apparently taught excellent penmanship; the pages I looked at, all seemed to be easy to read. I am sure there must be exceptions to this someplace in these 38 CD-ROM disks, but the thirty or so pages that I looked at were all easily readable.

One page that I looked at did have a corner torn off, thereby losing the place of birth information for about ten people. A few other pages had smudges on them, but nothing too drastic (this is due to the condition of the original records).

In short, these scanned images appear to be crystal-clear reproductions of original census pages. I could zoom in and easily read the handwriting on my computer's screen.

The images printed on my local printer, however, were always formatted to fit an entire page onto one sheet of paper. The result was a bit difficult to read since the handwriting was tiny on the printed page. This seemed to be a minor drawback, however, as the on-screen images could be zoomed and manipulated in so many ways (Paintshop Pro or other programs providing screen capture could be used to capture and print a zoomed page).

S&N Genealogy Supplies seems to have a winner with this excellent new electronic resource. The company also states that they plan to release London census records on CD-ROM for the 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871 enumerations.

This article is from Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter and is copyright 2002 by Richard W. Eastman. It is re-published here with the permission of the author.