Welcome to the Ancestry Academy…

September is here and children all over the country are heading back to school. It’s the perfect time to dig out your pencil case and do some learning of your own – in the Ancestry Academy! Whether you’re a new starter or a top set whiz kid, this week’s lessons will help you develop your family history skills and make brand new discoveries.

Monday, Third Period, English

Census records: Reading and understanding

Census records form the collated works of your Victorian ancestors’ lives. The details taken every ten years are like packed volumes – reading each one in turn, and understanding what it reveals, is the key to comprehending your family history.

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We’ll look at how you can work back through the censuses to discover your ancestors’ ages, birthplaces and occupations – plus track the comings and goings in your family.

Imagine that our great-grandfather was Alfred Earles. All we know about him is that he lived somewhere in Warwickshire. Let’s see where that can take us…

  1. Too easy?

    1Always start with more recent records and work backwards. We guess that Alfred was alive for the 1901 Census, so begin there. Search for the name Alfred Earles with Warwickshire under ‘Lived In’. The only complete match is Alfred Richard Earles in Aston, Warwickshire. Click ‘View Image’, scroll down to Alfred’s entry, and you can see that he was 26 years old, born in Handsworth, working as a machine tool fitter, and living with his young wife, Helena.

  2. Too easy?

    2If Alfred was 26 in 1901, he would have been 16 in 1891 – and probably living with his parents. Go to the 1891 Census, and this time we can use his full name, a birth year of 1875, and his birthplace. Again there’s one obvious match. The image reveals that Alfred was already working as a machinist, and living in Handsworth with his parents Richard and Lucy and three brothers – all of these are further ancestors for us to explore. There’s also a 76-year-old widow named Lucy Reader – Alfred’s grandmother?

  3. Too easy?

    3We can go back another decade, to the 1881 Census. Enter all the same details, and now you can also use his parents’ names – under ‘Family Member’ – to fuel your search. The top match is obviously our boy. The image shows the same parents and siblings, but there’s also a Kate Earles, 24, listed as a domestic servant. It looks like Richard was employing his sister to cook and clean for his young family.

  4. Too easy?

    4Alfred wasn’t alive in 1871, so let’s search for our newfound 2x great-grandfather, Richard in the 1871 Census. He was 29 in 1881, so use a birth year of 1852, and we learn he was born in Birmingham. You could also add the name of his sister, Kate, to your search. You’ll find both of them recorded as teenagers in Birmingham. There are three other siblings, plus their father, an engine fitter also named Richard – we’ve gone back yet another generation.

  5. Too easy?

    5So Richard junior wasn’t yet married. Let’s see what our 2x great-grandmother, Lucy, was doing in 1871. We’ll assume that the widow in the 1891 Census was her mother, suggesting her maiden name was Reader. We can also take a birth year of 1851 and place of Birmingham from our previous searches. It’s easy to spot her living with her mother and a sister named Priscilla. It looks like her father has died or left, and the family’s clearly hard up as both young girls are working – Lucy as a coal dealer.

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If we wanted to, we could keep on working our way back through the censuses, uncovering more and more members of the Earles and Reader families. For your assignment, focus on the elder Lucy Reader’s husband. He’s missing from the 1871 Census. Can you go back another ten years and use the 1861 Census to discover his name?

Note down the answer and keep it safe until the end of the week – you’ll be tested on your responses on Friday!



Monday's free period

Prize Draw 1

Family Tree Maker

Win 1 of 10 copies of our latest software

Be one of the first people to get your hands
on the new and improved version of our award-winning family history software. It comes complete with improved integration with your Ancestry.co.uk account, advanced charts and reports, interactive timelines and maps, and many more great new features.
We have ten copies ready to be won.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Tuesday’s free period

Prize Draw 2

WDYTYA? magazine

10 subscriptions up for grabs

Trace your family's past and discover your roots with Who Do You Think You Are? magazine. Brought to you by the team
behind BBC History Magazine, and the
official companion to the successful TV
series, WDYTYA? magazine's features
range from military to social history, telling
the stories of ordinary and extraordinary people and how they used to live. We have ten subscriptions to give away.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Wednesday’s free period

Prize Draw 3

Worldwide Memberships

Win 1 of 5 annual memberships

Our worldwide membership provides everything you need to trace your family history around the world. Scour the globe
with unlimited access to our entire library
of over 7 billion records, plus guaranteed access to all our new releases. We have
five annual memberships to give away.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September

Thursday’s free period

Prize Draw 4

National Trust passes

Win 1 of 50 pairs of tickets

We’re working with the National Trust to preserve our nation’s history, and help you uncover your family’s place in it. To
celebrate our partnership, we’re giving away 50 pairs of day passes to the National Trust property of your choice. Don’t miss the
chance to experience the history of Uppark, see the beauty of Fountains Abbey, or visit another of the Trust’s 350 properties.

Enter the prize draw

Closing date 30th September