In the 1891 Census of England and Wales for the household of James Jeans, Bermondsey, Southwark (RG12 piece 377 Folio 135 page 12), I can't read (1) the occupation of James Jeans and (2) the birthplace in Somerset, England of his wife Eliza. Can anyone help?

Census image extract

Updated: I'm wary of assuming that his occupation in 1891 is the same as in 1901 (although it does look likely on textual grounds). I'm even warier of assuming that her birthplace is given the same way in all censuses. I have other examples where -- in a single census record in a sequence -- a much more specific place of birth is specified, down to a particular building in the parish concerned, and I'm wondering if that's the case here.

4 Answers 4


Well the birthplace looks like Bruland or something to me, but as far as I can tell there is nowhere with a name like that in Somerset... The 1901 (RG13/539/87) and 1911 (RG14/2668/33) census records for the same couple both look like they say Burnham though, which would make more sense.

I think the occupation is probably Traveller which seems to match with the 1901 census that says ? Traveller (S.E.R) if I'm reading it right. The S.E.R is probably the initials of the South Eastern Railway, especially as the 1911 census lists him as a Railway Clerk.


Re Eliza's birthplace - so far as I can see, on the 1901, she comes from "Somerset, Burnham". (Even this isn't totally clear but "Burnham" seems to have the correct number of vertical lines.)

Looking at current maps of Burnham on Sea (particularly the Ordnance Survey maps accessible thru' Bing) I note that the river entering the sea at Burnham is the River Brue. I wonder if her 1891 birthplace is therefore a local place name starting with "Brue", one not seen on maps. It wouldn't be the first time I've seen a name that made sense to locals but is not directly visible on any map. Having said that, the number of strokes doesn't really seem to fit "Brue" if the end bit really is "lan[d]".


In terms of the birthplace of Eliza, looking at the handwriting I would say I can definitely read BRU as the first 3 letters, then either an L or a T as the 4th and either ON or AN.

With the enumerators mark through the end of the word I am finding it difficult to decipher if there is a lower case D at the end of the word, or if what looks like the 'tail' of the d is in actual fact part of the mark.

So the possibilities I have come up with are:

  • Bruland
  • Bruton
  • Brutan

Looking at a list of places and areas in Somerset I can see that there is in fact a Bruton in the county, so this could well be your mystery town.

However, I am still inclined to read it as Bruland even though no such place seems to exist. Could have been a writing error by the enumerator though, as he probably hadn't even heard of such a place.

  • 1
    I think the "tail" is part of the original script and the overmark is a simple straight stroke.
    – RobertShaw
    Feb 9, 2013 at 20:08
  • 1
    @RobertShaw - I would be inclined to agree with you.
    – AvieRose
    Feb 9, 2013 at 20:13

About him: Consistent with TomH's answer earlier, I read the occupation as "Traveller." I believe the his entry in the column, "Where born" reads, "Ohio, USA, British Sub[ject]."

About her: As to her place of birth ("Where born") Wikipedia has an alphabetical listing as "List of places in Somerset." I did not find any of the names listed there matched very well with the letters, as I read them, in her entry.

  • 1
    The "Where born" entry in question is the next line, the line for "Eliza".
    – RobertShaw
    Feb 9, 2013 at 20:03

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