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On a UK census the 1st column is the Schedule Number. The 2nd column contains the street name or name of house but rarely the house number. Where there are several families living on a street is there anyway I can find out the specific house number of one family?

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4 Answers 4

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One approach you can try is to look at the enumerator's description of the district (at the beginning of the census schedule) and try to follow it on the most contemporaneous Ordnance Survey (OS) map. (If you're lucky there may be an Ordnance Survey Town Plan (scale 1:500) but these were only done for urban districts around 1866).

However, street and building names change over time and buildings are demolished and built, so you may find you can't make a useful correlation, especially if you have to use a modern map. And even if you think you've identified the right house, you can't be 100% sure, especially in an urban area where there is a lot of change and it can be hard to understand from the census schedules whether separate households are in the same or separate buildings.

The British Library has a good overview of large scale OS maps, and most county archives hold copies of the maps for their area.

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While absence of a street number in a census is not evidence of absence of street numbering altogether, it could be there aren't any numbers. (At a rough guess, before the arrival of a comprehensive postal system - why do you need to identify houses? Just knock on the door and ask!)

"The Oxford Companion to Family and Local History" states that street numbering spread during the later 19th century and warns that it is common to find inconsistencies between censuses as houses were renumbered. To illustrate with my GG-grandparents, James and Emma Purcell:

  • In 1861 and 1871 they live in the hamlet of Vauxhall, Nantwich, Cheshire. No house number;
  • In the 1881 and 1891 they live at 12 Vauxhall;
  • In the 1901 they live at 2 Vauxhall Place;
  • In June 1901 they live at 12 Vauxhall again;
  • In the 1911 census, James has reverted to 2 Vauxhall Place.

Given that his neighbours at 11 Vauxhall were also his neighbours at 1 Vauxhall Place, it's pretty clear that 11, 12, 13(?), etc Vauxhall were renumbered 1, 2, 3(?), etc. Vauxhall Place. They could have moved en masse, I guess, but it seems unlikely.

It's tempting to assume the census schedules follow the streets but while they probably do, most of the time, it's equally clear there will be oddities as enumerators had to call back later, or dipped down back alleys.

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General speaking, no you can't. Depending on the date, and how urbanised the area was, there may not even have been any house numbers.

Broadly speaking, the older the census is the less likely it is that you will be able to identify a particular house. Much the same goes with rural versus urban areas - the more rural the less likely a precise address is given although sometimes you will get named farms that may be identifiable if you are lucky.

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Also worthy of note is that in many cities, entire families would often live in a bedsit. So you may have had upward of 5 families living in one house. So it may not be as simple as assuming that family 1 on street X lived in the neighbouring house to family 2 on street X, they were most likely in the next room.

I have several census returns for one branch of my ancestors who lived it a boarding house with 7 other families as well as the landlord. Not small families either. I think the 1911 census was the first one where an individual page was give to each family, with their full address written at the bottom.

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Older censuses were also like that I believe, it's just that the original returns (what you see for 1911) don't survive - what we have are the enumerator's summary sheets. I believe that you can tell whether it is a new building or a new household in the same building by whether there are one or two diagonal lines drawn between the households. –  TomH Feb 18 '13 at 15:19
    
@TomH - I wasn't aware of that. Useful info to have. –  AvieRose Feb 18 '13 at 16:28
    
@TomH, although the number of diagonal lines are supposed to be used as you say, it isn't always helpful. In the 1841 census I have 3 families recorded at a single place (Llysydefaid, a farm in Llanfair Nant Y Gof parish.) Going by the diagonal lines, 1 family was in one building, and a further 2 (possibly related) families were in another. But it's an isolated farm in the middle of nowhere, and as far as I have been able to discover there were never any farm cottages. So I'll never be able to identify exactly who lived where. –  ColeValleyGirl Feb 19 '13 at 12:53
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