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Berkshire Family Historian
September 1999

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Centenarians found on the CD ROM of the 1881 Census

Roy Stockdill, editor of the Journal of One-Name Studies, has been turning up some interesting curiosities from the CDROMs. It is now possible to find out who was the oldest living person in Britain in 1881. Roy says: "It's quite easy, except you have to search each of the 16 census disks individually. On the disks you enter the year 1775 in the Birth Year box and set the Year Range to 5. Be sure to leave the given name and surname boxes blank. Each disk produces a surprising number of centenarians. I didn't count the total, but I estimate there were over loo. By far the largest number was in Scotland and Wales. There are of course some glaringly obvious errors - like a 'son' of 110 born in 1771 and a 'niece' of similar age. However, here are the front runners":

Oldest man in Britain in 1881

William Riley, widower, aged 105, born at Poole in Dorset, head, gypsy living with Caroline Lee, unmarried, aged 40, born Gloucester, also a gypsy.

Being a gypsy William's age may be a bit suspect, but he is supposed to have been born in 1776. He must have fathered his daughter, Caroline, when he was 65, but this is by no means impossible, or even unlikely. The fact that he was called Riley and she Lee, although unmarried, is not unusual either. Gypsies were often known by more than one name (see an article in the current issue of the Genealogists' Magazine).

Britain's oldest women in 1881

Arm Howard, widow, aged 110, born in Borneo. Arm is supposed to have been born in 1771. This one is a bit debatable, but if the age is correct she is the clear winner and also Britain's oldest person on the 1881 census. But there are several other contenders (all women).

Mary Slater, a soldier's widow, aged 108, born in Gibraltar.

Chirsty Macpherson, a crofter, aged 108, with an unmarried daughter of 58.

Margaret Cameron, unmarried, aged 108.

Emma Wood, an unmarried nurse, aged 106.

In Berkshire one of the rare centenarians is Lady Julia Lockwood who was living at Ravensbury, Sunninghill. She was born in Dublin.

Apart from interesting himself in centenarians Roy has been looking for eminent Victorians. He found William Ewart Gladstone (at No. lo, where else), the six-year-old Winston Churchill, and literary lions like Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Sir Arthur Sullivan, the composer lived alone, aged 38, and was sandwiched in splendid isolation between a Metropolitan fire station and a church. He also found Oscar Wilde in Chelsea on census night. Living in the same house were a 13year-old apprentice and a 22-year-old printer, both described as 'visitors'. The apprentice would appear to have been the son of the housekeeper, but the printer is unexplained...

If you find more famous entries, or oddities, while looking through the census do let the editor know.

More from the CD ROM of the 1881 Census

The Queen was in residence at Windsor Castle on census night in 1881 together with some of her numerous children, and the ex-Empress Eugenie of France. If you go to 'Neighbours' and then scroll upwards you find that the very next person listed to the Queen is a coachman's wife, who rejoiced in the splendid name of Fanny Whip. No, she was not an ancestor of Nanny Whip in 'Blot on the Landscape'!

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updated 10th June 2001