Making sense of the census in the classroom

Our Learning from History Manager, Valina Bowman-Burns, is here to bring the past to life for schools. Here she tells us why census records are one of her favourite things to use in the classroom.


Click here for information on a free schools resource pack on Victorian census records, as well as other packs on life for Victorian children, and more.


Valina with students from the Ursuline School in Brentwood visiting ERO

What is the census?

The census counts everyone living in the UK on a particular day and tells us a little about them – their name, age and where they live. The census is used by the government and local authorities to help plan new schools, houses and roads. A census has been taken in Britain every 10 years since 1841 (except for 1941, when everyone was busy with the Second World War). To keep everyone’s personal information safe we are not able to look at the Census for 100 years. It then becomes interesting for another reason – as a fantastic source for finding out about the past.

How do I find census records?

You can come to the Essex Record Office!  Using computers in the ERO you can access all census records (and much more) via Ancestry for free. It is not possible to print from these computers, but by pressing the green ‘save’ button in the top right hand corner, you will be given the option to e-mail it to yourself.

If you’ve not visited ERO before, our short video will tell you what to expect from your first visit:

The National Archive has selected a few interesting examples of census records which yo can see here – including census records for Queen Victoria, a poor London family, industry in Lancashire and a 1911 census tampered with by a suffragette!

Or there are examples here in this blog post that relate to Essex that could be useful to you. If you use them in your classroom, please let us know with a quick e-mail to Heritage.Education@essex.gov.uk

How can I use the census in my classroom?

History: A Local history Study

Try searching for the location of your school and discover interesting local characters from the past. To start a local history study present the children with a census page like this and ask them what information we could find out from it. Perhaps set tasks, like finding the oldest person on the page or the youngest. Can they find a scholar (a child who goes to school)?

Census records record who was living or staying at each address in the country on the night the census was taken. The first column gives the address followed by individuals’ names, marital status, ages, occupations, and where they were born.

What caught my eye on this 1881 census was a gentleman living at 31 Church End in Great Dunmow, who will forever be remembered now as ‘Old Joe’. At first I felt bad that Joe’s surname had been lost to history, until I looked down and found ‘His Wife’ – no first name or surname correctly recorded. Perhaps this could lead to a discussion about how women or immigrants (they are originally from Ireland) were viewed in Victorian Society.

History: the lives of significant individuals

Try putting the names of significant individuals from Victorian times into Ancestry. Refine your results by looking only at ‘Census and Voter Lists’.

In 1851 Florence Nightingale is with her parents and the section of the Census for occupation is left blank.

In 1861 Florence Nightingale is now ‘formerly [a] Hospital Nurse’:

What happened in the 10 years in between? Can the children find out? Hint: they should come back with something like – she became a nurse, tended the wounded of the Crimean War, showed that trained nurses and clean hospitals could save hundreds of lives, set up a training hospital and is credited with founding modern nursing.

History: Children’s History

This page shows some of the boys described as ‘inmates’ at Colchester Union Workhouse in 1891.

By this time school is free and compulsory for all children and we know that North School in Colchester, nearby and newly built, accepted some of these children as students. How could this have changed these children’s lives?

What might your students discover in their local census records?

English: creative writing

Start by challenging children’s information retrieval skills, asking what information they can gather from this 1851 census. Perhaps choose one person to be the character in a story – what do we know about them? How can we create a story from this?

Sarah’s story could start like this:

Sarah Waters awoke with a start.

“Sarah” she heard her father call urgently, “Sarah! Anne needs you!”

She suddenly realised that he wasn’t calling her, he was calling her mother. Sarah’s baby sister Anne was crying again. Sarah was glad she had woken up, because it was nearly time to school ….

Sarah made her way downstairs through her father’s shoe making workshop. The overwhelming smell of leather and glue made her feel a little dizzy, but she soon got used to it….

Sarah stepped out of her house on Railway Street. Railway Street was always dirty from the factories nearby pumping smoke from their chimneys.  Sarah was on her best behaviour, as quiet as a mouse, when she walked past the house next door. It belonged to Mrs. Midson her strict, scary school teacher.

Other ways you can use Census records

The Census has amazing potential for Geography – especially showing movement and migration and how this is nothing new. Children could use a page from the census and maps to locate people have moved from. Census pages are often full of marks and dashes – where clerks have compiled information to inform government policy. In a maths lesson children could follow in their footsteps and answer questions like: how many children are there? How many people are over 60 years old? How many people are living in a different place to where they are born. An IT class gives the potential for children to present the information in fun and interesting ways – using charts and graphics.

If you want to use primary sources to bring history to life for your students, get in touch with us on heritage.education@essex.gov.uk, or see what we can offer to schools on our Education page

Document of the Month, May 2017: School bills and receipts, 1897

May’s Document of the Month has been chosen by our Learning from History Manager, Valina Bowman-Burns. Valina runs workshops for schools to help students discover the past through documents, maps and images from the ERO’s collections, and recently has been building a session for a Coggeshall school using records from their own local past.

This little bundle of receipts (D/NC 1/5/17) dates from 1897, and gives us an insight into the daily life of Coggeshall Congregational School in the late Victorian period. They are also aesthetically interesting, many of them featuring some beautiful artwork and lettering.

The Coggeshall Congregational School has its roots in a Sunday School that was established in 1788 with 200 places for children aged over 7 (there were 268 applicants, suggesting a great deal of local demand for education). The Sunday School movement began in the 1750s, running schools for children of poor families on Sundays as children were often needed to work during the week.

The Congregational School existed by 1855, when the school master was dismissed for drunkenness. By 1857 there were 90 children on the roll; this number was to rapidly expand over the rest of the century as education became compulsory, firstly for children aged 5-10 in 1880, and then up to age 11 in 1893, and up to age 12 in 1899. By the time this bundle of receipts was created there were 258 boys and girls on the school registers, with an average attendance of 190 (Kelly’s Directory, 1898).

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The documents will be on display in the ERO Searchroom throughout May 2017

The most numerous receipts are for purchases made from local coke and coal merchant William Sutton – hopefully enough to keep the pupils and teachers warm while they learned.

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This handwritten receipt records the items in everyday use within the school including slates and pencils, blotting paper and exercise books. Three dozen exercise books were purchased in February and twelve dozen purchased in April meaning that between January and June 180 exercise books were delivered, almost one for every child in the school.

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One way the school raised money was through the sale of needlework; one document records the sale of needlework items throughout 1897 raised £5 1s 5¾d (about £300 in today’s money). Mr Scott’s pillowslips fetched 1s 5d a pair, while Miss Unwin’s knickers made 1s 9d each.

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Among the receipts is this insurance certificate from the London & Lancashire Fire Insurance Company, insuring the school for £800, about £45,000 today, for a premium of 12 shillings.

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The school ordered items not only from local supplies but from those further afield. This bill is from school suppliers E.J. Arnold & Son who were based in Leeds, and had embraced new communications technology by having a telephone (they were contactable on ‘Nos. 33 & 331’). Directions to their works for visitors, however, were for people who were walking or riding.

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If you are interested in arranging a local history workshop based on real sources from our collections (where we do all the research for you!) do take a look at our Learning from History webpages to see how we can help bring history to life.

Winter in Wartime

Throughout December, the ERO’s Learning from History service will be offering a special session for primary schools investigating what Christmas was like during the Second World War.

Children will start with what they know. The session will begin by inviting them to suggest what they need for Christmas. As items are suggested they will be placed on a table. We will then look at these items one by one and think about whether people had them during the Second World War, using the archive at the Essex Record Office as evidence. Fairy lights will prompt a discussion about blackout restrictions and bombs dropping. Presents will lead to thoughts about shortages and include a craft activity where children create their own toys from clothes pegs. Thoughts of Christmas dinner will be compared to the realities of rationing. One by one the items that they think represent Christmas will be removed from the table.

American airmen host a party for local and evacuated children in Lindsell, 1944

American airmen host a party for local and evacuated children in Lindsell, 1944

Through this process the children will understand how Christmas was different and why, and empathise with children from the Second World War. Knowing what they can’t do, they will start to ask what they can do. We will try and find out from sources at the Essex Record Office what people did to have fun and end with playing some party games.

Cost: £75 for one session, for a class of 30 pupils (subsequent sessions on the same day are £60)

When: Book any day between the 8th and 18th December [1st-7th now fully booked]

Timings: Recommend an hour per session, but timings can be adapted to fit in with the school day

Where: In your classroom

Bookings and further information: please e-mail heritage.education@essex.gov.uk or telephone 033301 32500

Spark of Interest: The First World War

A special event for Secondary Schools studying the First World War on Monday 9th November 2015.

The aim of ‘Spark of Interest – the First World War’ is to reinvigorate an interest amongst students in the First World War, using different themes and angles to approach the topic or expand on what they already know. The day comprises of short, well researched talks by ERO experts and guests. All talks will include primary sources.

Cost: £10 per student. One teacher/adult supervisor free per 10 students. Additional adults £10 each. Bookings can be taken for whole classes or for smaller groups.

Students from years 7-11 should be accompanied by a teacher. A level students may attend on their own.

How to book: please e-mail heritage.education@essex.gov.uk or telephone 03330132500

You can also download our FREE First World War resource pack to start using Essex primary sources in your classroom.

 

Last Poppy logo9.00-9.30 Arrive

Students can browse the temporary exhibition by The Last Poppy Project, which tells the story of individuals, families and communities during the First World War using local sources. Early birds can hear about the origins of the poppy as a symbol of the First World War and subsequent conflicts.

 

9.30-10.30 Richard Knight – Introduction to the First World War

At one hour this will be the longest talk of the day and equip students with an introduction or reminder of the events of the First World War, with a particular focus on the army and trench warfare. The talk is illustrated by a wealth of real and accurate replica artefacts from the era.

10.30-10.45 Break

Col F Whitmore10.45-11.15 Allyson Lewis – Colonel Whitmore

Carefully documenting his life Colonel Whitmore collected newspaper cuttings and took photographs.  This wealthy and influential man strongly encouraged other members of his community to join the fight in the First World War in the beginning. He saw action himself – was shot twice and suffered shellshock. Through his story students can see the successes and regrets of this interesting, compassionate gentleman.

 

11.15-11.45 Grahame Harris – Aliens in Essex

The story of Essex residents perceived as ‘the enemy’ during the First World War.

Composer of the Planets Suite, Gustav von Holst, conducting in Thaxted church in 1916. Even though he was born in England, Holst's Germanic name meant that he was watched closely and reported to the Essex authorities during the First World War.

Composer of the Planets Suite, Gustav von Holst, conducting in Thaxted church in 1916. Even though he was born in England, Holst’s Germanic name meant that he was watched closely and reported to the Essex authorities during the First World War.

11.45-12.15 Valina Bowman-Burns – War in the Air

Technology took leaps forward in the First World War and the newly invented aeroplane, previously the plaything of the rich and reckless, evolved into the reconnaissance, fighter and bomber that changed how wars were fought.

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12.15-12.45 Lunch

12.45-1.15 Martin Astell – First World War Recorded

Using the sound archive students will hear the recorded memories of people who lived through the First World War, including stories of zeppelin crashes and the first air raids.

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1.15-1.45 Lawrence Barker – “INVASION! Though possible is somewhat improbable”

The words of a First World War poster alert the residents of coastal regions of Essex to their proximity to the Western Front. Students will be shown lesser known sources that tell us about the planning and preparations that were put in case of invasion.

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New team member: Valina Bowman-Burns

The ERO’s collections offer infinite educational possibilities, and we are excited to welcome Valina on board to explore these and bring them to students across the county.

 

IMG_7835Name: Valina Bowman-Burns

Role: Learning from History Manager

 

 

 

 

Why did you want to work at ERO?

I was introduced to the Essex Record Office as a student and spent many happy hours researching for my dissertation. It would have taken considerably less time if I was better at reading Tudor handwriting. I’ve also introduced friends and co-workers and always had positive experiences treasure hunting in the Searchroom. I’m very education focused, so when a job came up that used my skillset I jumped at it.

 

Describe an average day at ERO for you:

I’m still meeting people and trying to work out how the teams fit together.  I hope in the near future that I’ll be working much more closely with schools and bringing some new learning sessions online.  I’ll try and keep you posted.

 

What do you do when you’re not at ERO?

I like trying new things. So far this year I’ve tried screen printing, had a trial flight in a Tiger Moth biplane and given Tunisian crochet a go. In the evenings I am a regular at Zumba, yoga and Aikido.

 

Can you tell us about an interesting document you have come across while at ERO?

  1. The records from a mental institution in Colchester had some very sad stories.
  2. Jane Barnard’s will was my prize find when researching my dissertation – I could read it and it contained good detail that I was looking for.
  3. Some Victorian photographs of a man in full, fashionable Victorian ladies garb – corsets and all! I was very envious of his dress and style!

Discovering Sister Kate Luard’s story at the Essex Record Office

We have been taking part in Now the Last Poppy has Fallen, a project investigating stories of Essex people and places during the First World War, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

As part of our involvement in the project, we have worked with year 8 students at Shenfield High School to create this short reflective film on the wartime experiences of Sister Kate Luard, who we have mentioned a couple of times on this blog before (here and here).

The students joined us for a day to see Kate’s original letters and papers, and to work with filmmaker Chris Church to tell part of her story.

We will shortly be launching a resource pack using several of our First World War sources for secondary schools; if you would like to register your interest in this please get in touch on heritage.education@essex.gov.uk

We had a great day making the film, and we hope you enjoy watching it. See below for some behind-the-scenes photos of the filming process.

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Schools on a Naze Adventure

ERO staff are frequently to be found not just in our building in Chelmsford, but all over the county. Our education officer Sarah Girling has been working with school children around Walton-on-the-Naze to find out about how this vulnerable bit of coastline was defended in the Second World War…

173 pupils from three Essex schools have been learning about their local World War Two history on the Naze at Walton this October.

On a trail around the Naze headland searching for remains of WW2 coastal defences

On a trail around the Naze headland searching for remains of WW2 coastal defences

Frinton Primary, Walton-on-the-Naze Primary and Hamford Primary Academy School were involved in four days of visits to the militarised area of the Naze during World War Two, looking at surviving pillboxes and the area used for secret guided missile testing.

Roger Kennell of the Clacton Victoria County History group tells children about an infantry pillbox

Roger Kennell of the Clacton Victoria County History group tells children about an infantry pillbox

Year 5s from Walton-on-the-Naze Primary School with teacher Liz Wilson, local historians Fred Nash and Roger Kennell, and ERO education officer Sarah Girling

Year 5s from Walton-on-the-Naze Primary School with teacher Liz Wilson, local historians Fred Nash and Roger Kennell, and ERO education officer Sarah Girling

They also climbed the Naze Tower, listening to a talk given by Michelle Nye-Browne, the manager of the 300 year old Grade II* listed building, which was used as a radar tower.

The Naze Tower

The Naze Tower

Inside the Naze Tower, learning about how it was used as a radar station in the Second World War

Inside the Naze Tower, learning about how it was used as a radar station in the Second World War

The Naze Tower in use as a radar station in WW2

The Naze Tower in use as a radar station in WW2. Image reproduced courtesy of the Naze Tower.

Looking out from the top of the Naze Tower

Looking out from the top of the Naze Tower

As part of the European-funded World War Two Heritage project, pupils learned about the defences that were built during the Second World War and how they would have been used if German invasion forces had landed on the Essex coast.

Looking at a pillbox which has fallen into the sea

Looking at a pillbox which has fallen into the sea. The coast at Walton has been eroded at a rate of 2 metres a year, and some of the WW2 defences have fallen off the cliff edge

Led by enthusiastic historians, Roger Kennell and Fred Nash, the children were inspired by the stories including an eccentric Brigadier, who when faced with a missile that was heading back to its launch site on the Naze, calmly raised a ‘colourful golf umbrella’ as the bits of broken metalwork fell to the ground.

Roger Kennell shows children the site where soldiers lived during wartime

Roger Kennell shows children the site where soldiers lived during wartime

The pupils had obviously learned something of the Second World War back at school but the visit was a chance for pupils to really understand how national and international events impacted their local community. The Naze itself was inhabited by the army and the RAF, making it their home for the duration of the war.

Pupils using the specially designed Four on a Naze Adventure workbooks to find out about the WW2 coastal defences at the Naze

Pupils using the specially designed Four on a Naze Adventure workbooks to find out about the WW2 coastal defences at the Naze

The project will be continuing and will include a visit to the Essex Record Office for pupils to investigate local records that reveal what life was like for ordinary people living in Walton during the war, interviewing locals to find out about their memories, and holding a 1940s tea party at each school to celebrate the end of the project.

To find out more about the educational work of the ERO, visit our services for schools webpage.

This project is part of the EU Interreg-funded World War Two Heritage project taking place on both sides of the Channel.