Census Returns


1881 Census

Links with China


The first census transcript to become available was the 1881 Census and this page was originally prepared to show one way in which the CD could be processed.


In November 1991 Adrian Archer of  Bishops Stortford <akahome @t eggconnect.net> was puzzled. His ancestor John ARCHER came from Wilstone and is listed in the 1881 census as an Agricultural Labourer age 48, living in Wilstone. His son Albert is also listed as being born in Wilstone around 1873. His daughter Elizabeth was born in Hong Kong, China around 1875! He asked "How could an agricultural labourer afford to go to Hong Kong and back during the period 1874 to 1880?"

This suggested it was worth searching the 1881 census to find out who else living in Hertfordshire in 1881 was born in China.

Rev. John Philip HOBSON, 31, born Shanghai, was the Vicar of Stanstead Abbot.

Rev. John S. PARKES, 44, Wesleyan Minister Superintendent, was born at St Kitts, in the West "India" (Indies), and two of his daughters were born in Canton. [More information]

Lydia SMITH, 62, was the widow of the Bishop of Victoria, Hong Kong, and her daughter was born in China.

Mary A K Pope, 32, was born in China, and was living with her widowed mother in Ware. It may not be a coincidence that their boarder was the Rev Arthur F. Burcoyne, curate of Christ Church.

The others born in China were all pupils at Boarding Schools, and may well be the sons of missionaries, etc.

Phillip T. COOPER, 15, was at Haileybury [see below]
John HAGAN, 16, was at a Roman Catholic school at Chipping Barnet
Edward B. LEES, 14, & Bernard H. LEES, 13, were at the Non-Conformist Grammar School at Bishops Stortford.
Robert Cecil PALMER, 9, was at Christs Hospital School, Hertford
John C. SAUNDERS, 12, was at Dagmar House, Hatfield

In this company it is clearly a surprise to find the daughter of an agricultural labourer (who in turn was the son of an agricultural labourer). If I was being cynical I would suggest that at some stage between the preparation of the census from the household returns and the publication of the index a N.K. (i.e. Not Known) was mis-read as H.K. and then expanded to Hong Kong, and I would rush to check the original return (on microfilm). However a N.K. entry is not very likely with a child living with its parents.

One possibility, and it is a very long shot, is that John ARCHER was a lay minister in a non-conformist church (the Church of England was too class-bound) who had a spell in China as a missionary. In this context it is worth knowing that the Baptists were very active in the Tring area. There was a Baptist Chapel in Wilstone, and another in nearby Long Marston, while there were four Baptist Chapels in nearby Tring (three of which are still active).

April 2003

The Haileybury Register lists:

COOPER, Lt.-Col. Philip Templer, b. 24 Mar. 1866, s. of W. M. Cooper. Colvin House Summer 1879 - Autumn 1882. D. 14 April 1934.

The 1851 census shows John Archer as an agricultural labourer living in Wilstone with his father  Thomas Archer (54, agricultural labourer, born Bierton, Bucks) and (step?)-mother Ann (26, straw plaiter, born Tring). He married Ann Seabrook in 1871 [FreeBMD]. He was a beer house keeper at the Black Horse in Tring at the time of the 1891 census.

If you can add to the information given above tell me.