Census Home Page

Where is it?

Evaluating "Erroneous" Place Names

So you have found your ancestor in the census (or some other document) and it gives his place of birth. The only problem is that you cannot find it in any gazetteer or on any map. Some are real puzzlers - such as the "Hoopston" in the Ancestry index of the 1851 census which should almost certainly been "Aspenden" (see MILES, Aspenden, born c 1806 & 1851 census),

One interesting check is to use the census data base to see who else claims to have been born there.

This may reveal where the place you are looking for is, as if a lot of people are recorded as being born  there this may help to identify where the place is. For instance some time ago (when the best census date available was the 1881 census on CD) I found a reference to someone living in London who was born at "Doo Little, Herts" and the way that the location of Doolittle was identified is demonstrated on the page But where is Doo Little?

Recently I had an enquiry about at "Burton, Herts" - see MILLER, Burton, [Cheshunt], Early 19th century and I decide to look to see who was recorded as being born at "Burton, Hertfordshire" in the 1851-1901 censuses as transcribed on Ancestry.

The following table shows what I found:

Census Name Year Born Living My Trans Note Other
1851           No one listed as being born at "Burton, Herts"  
1861 Shadrach Butcher 1839 Burton St Albans, Herts Herts, ?Burton Leading capital unclear and unlike any other capital  "B" on the page Recorded as born Streatley, Bedfordshire in 1871. No other record found.
1861 William Chance 1847 Burton Lilley, Herts Beds, Burton Clearly different to other "Herts" on the page but "B" not clear due to enumerator check mark  
1861 Sussanh Crosman 1810 Bishop Burton Middlesex Herts, Bishop's Stortford Gross transcription error
1861 Willm Goodhead 1820 Burton Staffordshire ?erbyshire, Burton Presumably Derbyshire, Buxton
1861 Mary A Luck 1803 Burton Middlesex Hartfordshire, Burton Surname actually Tuck, "Burton" best interpretation Mary Tuck born Burford, Oxfordshire in 1871
1861 George Moulden 1801 Burton Warwickshire Hertfordshire. Burton Transcript OK Recorded as Burham, Staffordshire in 1851
1861 Eliza Warwick 1824 Burton Ford Hampshire Herts, Buntingford Mistranscription
1861 John Wilson 1836 Burton Surrey Burton, Herts or Hants But may be "Hants" - Both occur on adjacent pages and are very similar Name common - no obvious match on other censuses
1871 Frances Bond 1828 Burton Surrey Herts, Burton Transcript OK Listed as born Burton, Herefordshire in 1881
1871 Mary Brown 1847 Burton Surrey Hants, Burton Unambiguous "Hants" occurs elsewhere on page - mistranscription  
1871 Abigail Coxall 1858 Bishop Burton London Herts, Bishops Stortford Gross mistranscription
1871 William Figgis 1840 Burton London Herts, [Buntingford] Very compressed squiggle - but definitely NOT Burton. One needed to know there was a place called Buntingford to read it. Poor Transcription
1871 Jane Gilchrist 1869 Burton Heath London Bushey Heath, Hertfordshire Faint image makes it hard to read but not Burton. Poor Transcription
1871 Charles Gotts 1848 Burton Lancashire Herts, Burston: There is a faint extra line which could be an attempt to add the "s" after the word was written. Can't really fault the Transcription Bushey, Herts in 1861 and 1881
1871 Annie E Robinson 1861 Burton Cheshire [St]afforde, Burton "St" badly obliterated by enumerator check mark. Someone who didn't know the names of the counties would have trouble - but definitely not  Hertforde. Bad transcription.
1871 John Sandford 1820 Bishop Burton Ware, Herts " Bp Stortford Gross Mistranscription
1881 T Hallam 1849 Burton London Herts, Burton   No obvious match found 1871 or 1891 census
1881 William Kelnay 1849 Burton Essex Herts, Burton   No obvious match found 1871 or 1891 census
1881 Richard Odell 1815 Burton Bedfordshire Herts, Birton Definite dot over "i" so not a "u". Mistranscription 1871 records born at Pirton, Herts
1881 David Prestlant 1841 Burton Buckinghamshire  Herts, Burton   1901 lists a David Prestland [mis-transcribed Prestley] born at "Purton", Herts
1891 Frederick Wm & Henretta Badley 1873


Burton on Irant Yorkshire Derby, Burton on Trent Indexing Derby as Hertfordshire is a gross error (ditto used by mistake?) Final word definitely starts with capital "T"
1891 Elizabeth Clark

Lucy Russell

1863 Burton Wood Wheathampstead, Herts Herts, Gustard Wood They were living at Gustard Wood - and the words Gustard Wood occurs 15 times on the page (including the page heading) and still the transcriber can't get it right.
1891 Catherine Elridge 1842 North Burton Hatfield, Herts [Yor]ks, North Burton Initial part of the county is not very clear - but "Herts" occurs about 10 times on the page so the county can be clearly seen not to be Hertfordshire. Another "[Yor]ks" mentions a large town which is definitely in Yorkshire. (also wrongly indexed as Hertfordshire).
1891 Samuel Flowe 1856 Burton Wood London Bulish Wood, Herts No great difficulty in reading and definitely not "Burton". Have been unable to identify it. "Herts" was rewritten in as an amendment - so may be wrong - or could be a mishearing of Bricket Wood??
1891 William Handscombe 1861 Burton Kent Herts, Burton OK 1901 show there were 3 Williams of about the right age born in Herts - none near Cheshunt.
1891 Sarah Johnson 1851 Burton London Herefordshire, Burton Very clear transcription error
1891 Matthew Leach 1837 Burton London Herts, Burton OK Recorded as being born at Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire in 1871 census
1891 Lucy Peairs 1870 Burton Hertin London Curtonfferts ??, Herts Leading capital "C"  is identical to unambiguous "C" on previous line. Almost certainly "ff" read as "H".  
1891 Thomas Railton 1812 Burton Lancashire ?Horton, [Yorks?] Byrton Definitely unclear item - with squiggle correction? which could be "Yorks" Clearly an ambiguous entry although very unlikely to be Hertfordshire. No obvious match
1891 Hannah Surrell 1831 Burton Norfolk Hertfordshire, Burton OK Not found any other census with this name
1891 Kate Turner 1862 Burton on Freet London Burton on Trent, Derby Transcriber failed to note how "T" was written by enumerator. "Derby" may be difficult if you don't know what to expect - but in now way is it "Herts"
1891 Alfred Woodhead 1839 Burton Lancashire  ?Derby?, Bristow "Derby" is a guess on my part - but  the writing could definitely not be Herts. Place name not Burton.
1901 Emily Martin 1861 Burton Grames Wormley, Hertfordshire Burton Grange, Herts Very compressed writing and second "g" very underdeveloped. Cannot fault transcription Born Cheshunt (as Mrs Baldwin in 1891, as Miss Collins in 1881)
1901 Alice Showell 1873 Burton Northamptonshire Burton Hunt?, [Staffs] Confused entry - was county originally left off - with ?correction "Staffs" written alongside and "Burton Hunt" the name of the place (and is it Hunt or Hert or even Kent) Transcriber's nightmare Burton on Trent, Staffordshire in 1891
1901 Clara Stones 1889 Burton Surrey Herts Burton Agree birth place, but surname should be Stoner. Recorded as born at Altofts, Yorkshire in 1891

Of the 37 "hits" only one can be shown to relate to Burton, near Cheshunt - and this was hard work to show. Mrs Emily Martin claimed to have been born at Burton Grange in 1901 - but she does not occur in earlier censuses under this name. However the 1901 census shows a stepson (of her husband) and in the 1891 census she turns up as a Mrs Emily Baldwin, born Cheshunt. Her marriage to Charles Baldwin (on FreeBMD) gives her maiden name as Collins - and in 1881 she turns up as a Miss Emily Collins, servant, born in Cheshunt.

Most of the others are clearly errors, and in the small number of cases where the census form clearly reads "Burton, Herts" it has been impossible to show any other link with Hertfordshire.

See also Problems with finding census returns

Census Home Page

Page updated September 2007