Wednesday, 8 April 2009

1820 Irvine Census

An article in the October 2007 issue of the Journal of the Glasgow & West of Scotland Family History Society, on Ayrshire Archives, alerted me to the fact that 'some churches in the 1820s carried out censuses or church surveys of names, occupation and where parishioners were born'. The article said that two examples have survived in Ayrshire, for St. Quivox dated 1821 and for Irvine and Halfway, 1820. I recently got around to sending a research fee to Ayrshire archives and this week received a photocopy of the beautifully (copperplate) written page containing the one reference to a clan member. It is of course interesting that there is only one. There may be a female somewhere who married into another family, but if so I don't know about her.

The relevant section of the Irvine and Halfway Census is headed 'Twenty Eighth Quarter, Return by William Tweed Deacon', and it is in line 20 in which there is some valuable information. The head of the Irvine family is 'Widow McIlhago'. We know from the Old Parish Records (OPRs) of the baptisms of her three sons that she was Elizabeth and that her late husband was Robert. We have no certain birth, marriage or death dates for them, though we may deduce from the same OPRs that they were born about 1760 and married about 1790. We now know that Robert had died by 1820 at an age under 60, not unusual for the hard working Sea Captain that he was.

The 1820 Census unfortunately does not tell us places of birth, but does say that our particular household included two males and one female. Judging from other entries on the page, the female is Elizabeth herself, and as we will see the two males were two of her three sons. In the column headed 'Occupation' we read 'supported by her sons'. Clearly they were in work and as I will spell out on another occasion they had followed in their father's footsteps. In the column headed 'Religion', we have 'Establish Scots'. This means that the family belonged to the Established Church of Scotland. The column contains other churches in addition, Relief, Burgher and Church of England. The Established Church appeared to have about half the population, the Relief about a third and the Burgher an eighth. Finally in the column headed 'Remarks' we have the one word 'Comfortable'. It is good to know that 'Widow McIlhago' was left 'comfortable' and that her sons cared for her, as no doubt she did for them. In an earlier blog (April 5th) I explained that one son from this family had left Irvine to live in Dunbar on the East Coast. We know he married there in 1825. As there are only two sons still at home at the time of the Census we may now presume that he left Irvine before 1820.

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