The missing column of data from the 1911 census, detailing individuals’ infirmities has now been release.
At the Find My Past website, you can now read the infirmity column, which contains descriptions of peoples’ health conditions as perceived and written by the head of household on the night of Sunday 2 April 1911. Under Data Protection regulations, this sensitive information has remained closed until now.
Find My Past tells us: “‘Lunatic’, ‘imbecile’ and ‘feeble-minded’ are some of the most commonly used entries, reflecting an era before such terminology was deemed unacceptable. The census prompts the head of household to record if a person is ‘totally deaf’, ‘deaf and dumb’, ‘totally blind’, ‘lunatic’, ‘imbecile’ or ‘feeble-minded.’
“However, not all the entries are negative or insensitive. The 1911 records also reflect the humour and curious family dynamics from a century ago – not too dissimilar to what we know now in 2012. One extraordinary record details a Mr John Underwood from Hastings recording his children as ‘quarrelsome’, ‘stubborn’, ‘greedy’, ‘vain’ and ‘noisy’. He even records himself as ‘bad-tempered’ and his wife as suffering from a ‘long tongue’.
“Another unusual entry is from Thomas Wallace Young, who was described as being ‘bald and toothless’, helping us picture exactly what he looked like. William Robert Arnold from Yorkshire commented on his financial status in 1911 by recording his infirmity as being ‘short of cash’.
“The cause of the suffragettes is also illustrated within the new records, with some women listing their infirmities as not having the vote or not being enfranchised. For example, four women living in the same household recorded their infirmities as ‘voteless, therefore classed with idiots and children’.
“Some chose to make a note of their good health instead of the health problems the form enquired about, such as ‘well’, ‘healthy’, ‘sane’, ‘alright’ and even ‘perfect’. Evelyn Baker and her family from Leeds were recorded in the census by their father Addiman Parkin Barker as simply being ‘alive’. Seventy-two entries simply say ‘none, thank God’.
“A correlation between infirmity and occupation can also be identified in some cases. The biggest source of employment for blind men and women was basket-weaving. Other trades for blind men were musicians or musical instrument makers. Women who were ‘deaf and dumb’ were often employed within the textile or garment trades, or in domestic service, while men were most likely to be labourers.”