Week 5 of 52 Ancestors – In the Census

Week 5 (29Jan-4Feb) prompt was ‘In the Census’ 

The English 1911 Census was the first to display the actual census form filled out by the household rather than a summary of the census like previous years since 1841.

As my great grandmother Lilian Muriel Witt (Week 3 Ancestor) was still living in Salisbury and would have been around 11 years old, I was excited to see who was still living at home.  Her mother had passed in 1904 so I knew it would be only her father and some of her siblings.

When I opened the image, much to my surprise, I found that her father Mark, had filled in the years married and children born/died section which should only be filled in by the females of the family.  It had been crossed out but it was very much visible.

There in black and white was the fact that 14 children had been born to the marriage, 11 were still alive and 3 were deceased.

1911 Witt Census Small

Before opening the 1911 census, I had confirmed that 13 children had been born to Mark Witt and Elizabeth Pragnell who had married in Stockbridge, Hampshire on 19 Feb 1877.  Mark was 20 while Elizabeth was only 16 years old.

I had confirmed the children’s names by starting with the 1881 census, which was the first after Mark and Elizabeth’s marriage and continuing with 1891 and 1901 censuses.  I also used the UK FreeBDM website to confirm the registered names of the children and which quarter they were born in.  I had also found 12 out of the 13 children’s death dates.  I couldn’t seem to find Walter Mark Witts death.

Now there was another child to find.  I quickly realised that they must have been born and died between censuses otherwise I would have found them already. But which two censuses? Mystery number 1 to solve!

I already knew that one of the children, Ada Jane Witt, had died in 1895 aged 8. So that was two children accounted for out of the three who had passed by 1911. So that meant that Walter Mark Witt had also died before 1911 but when and more importantly where?  I had found no evidence that it was in England.  Mystery number 2 to solve!

Solving Mystery 1.

It didn’t take long to see where it was possible that a child was born and died because basically Elizabeth had given birth every two years, starting the year after they married.  Between Minnie and Charles I found a five year gap and then it went back to every two years. Using the UK FreeBDM I narrowed it down to two possible children both born in Sep quarter of 1892 in Alderbury, Wiltshire  – Allen Howard and Elsie Ann.  Allen Howard died in Sep quarter of 1893 and Elsie Ann in Mar quarter of 1894.  For some reason I just didn’t feel that it was Allen but Elsie so I paid for her birth certificate. Wasn’t I most relieved when I found I had chosen correctly. The missing child was Elsie Ann Witt 17Aug1892-1894.

Elsie Ann Witt Birth Certificate Small

 Solving Mystery 2.

In the 1901 census, Walter Mark Witt was boarding with a family and listed as Railway engine fireman in Portsmouth, Hampshire.  I couldn’t find him in a 1911 census or a relevant death in the UK so his death date was left blank.

I knew he was definitely still alive in 1904 as he attended his brother Ernest’s wedding in Winterslow, Wiltshire on which occasion a family photo was taken.

Ernest Walter Witt & Hester Yeates Wedding Portrait 1904

Deciding to try the Family Search website, I finally got a hit once I had narrowed down the death between 1904 and 1911. The top result was a Walter Mark Witt who had died on the 27 June 1907 in Brockville, Leeds, Ontario.  But was this my Walter? I was totally amazed to see that there was an image attached.  Holding my breathe, I opened the image and yes it was most definitely my Walter.  Unfortunately he had been run over by an engine. He was only 26 years old.


Walter Mark Witt Death Certificate 1907

A few years later, I received a copy of previous Witt family research and discovered that Elizabeth had actually been pregnant 17 times in her life.  It also revealed that she had died in childbirth along with the child.  She was 44 years old.

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I have been researching my family history since 2009. I am interested it the family names Shingles, McEwan, Snowdon & Witt around Gippsland and Wodonga areas of Victoria, Australia

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