PD Sidebotham posted a message covering a number of questions:
> Primary schooling became free in the latter part of Queen Victoria's
> reign, and according to a child's history book at my son's school,
> children actually had school lessons on how to fill in the census
> forms as they would often have been the only literate members of the
I hadn't heard of children being used in this way, but I must take issue
with the contention that they would have been the only literate members
of the family. Free schooling only came in the 1870s, but there had
long been universal education at Parish level with fees which even the
poor could afford. There was a high general level of literacy among the
country poor. Educational provision in the larger urban centres lagged
behind during the mid-19th century, but even so, the sort of widespread
illiteracy you suggest was not common in Scotland. I have looked at a
lot of Registers of BDMs, both for members of my own family, and on
behalf of other people, and I can assure you that instances of brides,
grooms, parents and other informants signing with a cross, rather than
a legible signature, are quite rare.
> I guess that refers to the 1891 and 1901 censuses, but I didn't note
> which year free primary education was brought in.
As noted above, 1870. Which means that, by the 1891 and 1901 Censuses,
any literacy problems resulting from mid-Victorian urban deprivation
would have been under attack for 20-30 years.
> If children who'd only just learned to write were in charge, phonetic
> spellings would have been common.
Whatever help the children may have been called to provide, there is no
way they were "in charge". That was the privilege of the Enumerator.
In modern times, blank schedules are left for individuals to fill in,
but in the 19th century, the Census returns were made by the Enumerator,
on the basis of verbal information. This is the source of the phonetic
spellings. Remember, too, that in the 19th century, people were often
less paranoid about spellings than we are.
> Imagine how valued & important those children would have felt, & how
> proud their parents would have been!
Sorry, but I think you are letting your imagination run away with you. I
really don't believe there is much factual basis for what appears in
your son's school book.
> Missing OPR records
> Here is another reason for missing OPR data: direct quote from the
> 1791-99 Statistical Accounts Vol 11 page 176 (but listed as p174 -
> confusing!!) parish of Kirriemuir:
> "...The parochial registers are of a late date. It appears that they
> were taken possession of in 1713 by the Rev James Rait and were never
> afterwards recovered. The registers of Births, marriages and deaths,
> which have been kept since 1713, are as correct as most others, but
> far from being in a satisfactory state."
> So there you have it - seems that careless (or rogue??) vicars were
> at fault as well!
There were certainly some of those. But some instances of Registers
being kept by Ministers (the term "Vicar" is not used in the Kirk of
Scotland) can be accounted for by doctrinal splits. The early Registers
of, I think, New Deer (if not, then it's Old Deer) are recorded as
having been carried off by the last Episcopal Minister of the Parish.
> Echoing previous comments - what an amazing & valuable resource site
> at www.edina.ac.uk MANY THANKS to whoever posted it. There is a great
> search facility, so you can put in a parish or landowners' name,
> search for "Page Text" and all references to it on any page over both
> volumes are given. Or go direct via county/parish name & you'll be
> taken to the start of the relevant chapter.
Agreed. The OSA and NSA are a wonderful resource, and for anyone who
can't easily get at paper copies of them, this site is very attractive.
I haven't tried the Search facility.
My quarrel with the site is that the pages are all held in facsimile.
Like most UK-based surfers, I have to pay telephone charges for every
second I am online, which makes downloading a 10-page OSA article from
www.edina.ac.uk a fairly expensive hobby. I wish they had offered the
choice of facsimile or transcribed text-files.