Out For The Count

In order to arrive at a reasonably definitive figure for the population of a country, county or state, it has been the practice for governments to conduct a census at regular intervals, typically every 10 years. When and if the detailed records are eventually made available to the public, these provide an unrivalled method of gathering information on individual ancestors and also for examining the total numbers and geographical distribution of people sharing the same surname. This article considers what the census can tell us about this geographical distribution.

It would have been very convenient if the various governments concerned could have agreed upon a common date on which each census would take place. With a complete disregard for the trouble they might cause future generations of genealogists, they naturally failed to do so! We find, as a result, that whilst the United Kingdom carried out a census in 1801 and every 10 years thereafter, the Americans chose to undertake their census a year earlier in each case. If we want to determine the distribution of the Lin(d)fields in around say, 1880, we therefore have to settle for the 1880 figures for the USA and the 1881 figures for the UK. It is possible for someone to appear in 1880 in the US and then again a year later in the UK. Conversely, someone who emigrated after the 1880 but before the 1881 would appear in neither and might seem to have disappeared completely. Given that most movement was from the UK to the USA this latter scenario is obviously the more likely source of error. That said, it could have been worse. If the interval between the two counties had been 5 years, the number of people missed would, on average have been 5 times greater.

Similar problems occur with migration between Canada and the USA, Canada having followed the British pattern and held its census in 1881.

The actual numbers in each case in 1880/1 were 796 in the UK and 122 in the United States. A further 9 individuals were listed in Canada, in just two households in Colbourne Ontario. These 9 originated from the Newfoundland branch, but the province of Newfoundland did not become part of Canada until 1949 and hence is not included in the census of 1881.

Assuming that a census was in fact conducted in 1881 in Newfoundland, it may be possible to access the records in the national or provincial archives, but I have not yet attempted to do so. Perhaps one of our Canadian members would like to explore this possibility? I do know that the 1921 census is in the process of being indexed by a group of around 100 volunteers. That particular census contains about 234,000 names, and the project started in 1998.

Fortunately, we can work out with reasonable certainty who would have been in Newfoundland in 1881. Josiah and Sarah Ann LINFIELD and 7 of their children are known to have been alive at that time, and also James and Rosannah and two of their children, together with 3 other brothers Titus, Mark and Andrew and their parents George and Mary. In a related branch of the family, we also know of Thomas and Susanna and at least one of their daughters who was unmarried in 1881; three more daughters may or may not have been married in 1881. Together with John and Alfred and their families, these bring the Canadian total of Lin(d)fields to between 49 and 52 (using the post-1949 definition of Canada).

Counting Lin(d)fields in the rest of the world is somewhat harder. In Australia, the first Australia-wide census undertaken by the Commonwealth was in 1911. Prior to that, censuses were undertaken by individual provinces, but none of the 1881 census data survives except for some microfiche copies for Northern Territories published by the Genealogical Society of the NT [GSNT]. All other provinces of Australia have destroyed the data and every census taken since the establishment of the Commonwealth in 1901 has been destroyed as part of an official mandated policy. I believe that some earlier censuses taken by the colonies may still exist; the 1841 for South Australia for example.

We can estimate the Lin(d)field numbers knowing which families had emigrated by that time. We find, in fact, that most of our Australian relatives migrated there after 1881. Those known to be there in 1881 are Jesse Lindfield and his wife Johanna, together with 5 children. We also have a record of a marriage in 1881 of Albert Lindfield, but no information as to whether that occurred before or after the census. We also do not know when he went to Australia. The total for Australia is therefore probably 8, but could have been one more or one less.

On the face of it, we might conclude that about 18% of our Lin(d)field relatives were overseas, as shown in the first chart below.

However, this is a considerable over-simplification. To start with, we do not have hard evidence in most cases to show that all of them came from the United Kingdom. Within the U.S. population we have individuals shown as born in Norway and Germany, and with parents shown as born in those countries. (Unlike the British census, the U.S. census records place of birth of both parents for each individual). Until we account for each person in the U.S. 1880 census and establish their ancestry, we cannot be sure how many more are of non-UK origin.

An even greater distortion of the 18% figure is apparent when we include the LINVILLE families, many (but not all) of which descend from Thomas LINDFIELD of Fletching, whose descendants emigrated to Pennsylvania in 1683. Including all common spelling variations, the total number of LINVILLE entries in the U.S. 1880 census is actually 1583. In addition, there are some close variations that are fairly obviously not connected, such as the 14 LINDVALL entries, all born in Sweden. However, the 1583 LINVEL, LINVILL, LINVILLE and similar names almost certainly include considerably more who descend from French and other roots rather than from Thomas of Fletching.

Whereas without the LINVILLE entries, the USA makes up around 12 per cent or one eighth of the total, including them gives us the completely different picture shown in the second chart,  with about two-thirds of the population in the U.S. No allowance has been made for the numbers who do not descend from the Fletching family, but even if only one third of the Linvilles descend from the Fletching branch, the U.S. total would still be 42% of the world population.

This illustrates one of the difficulties of assessing distribution of a family name. It only needs one (male) person to have moved to another area at some time in the distant past, to cause a major change in present-day population. If that migrant has not been identified, it becomes very difficult to establish whether the name originated in one place or several. In the case of the Lin(d)field surname variations, we find this difficulty with several of the American branches. The Massachusetts branch, originating with William LINFIELD of Braintree, is not actually proved to be linked back to an English ancestor, though it seems very likely. Similar doubts surround the LINKFIELD families from New Hampshire and the LINFIELDs of North Carolina.

County Number % Cumul %
Sussex 381 47.86 47.86
Surrey 132 16.58 64.45
Middx 116 14.57 79.02
Kent 46 5.78 84.80
Hants 24 3.02 87.81
Yorks 19 2.39 90.20
Lancs 18 2.26 92.46
Herts 15 1.88 94.35
Derbys 8 1.01 95.35
Wigtown 6 0.75 96.11
Beds 3 0.38 96.48
Gloucs 3 0.38 96.86
Northants 3 0.38 97.24
Warwicks 3 0.38 97.61
Midlothian 3 0.38 97.99
Berks 2 0.25 98.24
Cheshire 2 0.25 98.49
Essex 2 0.25 98.74
Lincs 2 0.25 98.99
Notts 2 0.25 99.25
Bucks 1 0.13 99.37
Cambs 1 0.13 99.50
Leics 1 0.13 99.62
Salops 1 0.13 99.75
Westmoreland 1 0.13 99.87
Denbighshire 1 0.13 100.00
TOTAL 796 100.00

A similar, if much less marked effect, can be seen if we look at the distribution within the UK. Taking the 1881 data again, and the numbers of individuals by the county in which they were enumerated, we have the distribution shown below. The general pattern obeys what is known as Pareto’s Law, that is that around 80% of the sample occurs in the top 20% of the groups, in this case 5 counties in the south-east of England. (In fact, the figure is somewhat over the 80%, reflecting the general lack of mobility of the Lin(d)field families). However the sixth and seventh counties in order of population, accounting for a little over 2% each of the total, are Yorkshire and Lancashire, which are far enough away to suggest that perhaps the name could have originated there independantly. In fact, we know that both groups descend from Sussex families, but without that knowledge it would be easy to jump to a false conclusion.

We will continue to analyse the census data from around the world, and in particular the 1880 data from the U.S. All of the data is being entered into a spreadsheet, which will eventually contain not only the census data itself, but also the database numbers of each individual. This will allow us to ensure that everyone in the census has been accounted for in the database, and vice versa, and will allow us to link everyone in the census to a particular branch. I can e-mail the spreadsheet to anyone who would like a copy.

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