The fertility census

The fertility census


The falling birth rate, large numbers of people emigrating and the reportedly poor health of the nation were significant enough to give the government cause for concern in 1911, since a large healthy workforce was needed for Britain to continue to develop as an industrialised nation. These concerns prompted the government to include questions on ‘fertility in marriage’ in the 1911 census.

In the 1911 census women were asked to state the ‘years the present marriage has lasted’, the number of children born alive to the present marriage (not just those who were living in the house) and how many had died.

This is of particular interest to the family historian, because it can alert them to the existence of children who had died, as well as children who were away from the family home at the time of the census.

It can also potentially point to earlier marriages, via the children who are listed on the census as ‘sons’ and ‘daughters’ but who are not from the present marriage. Sometimes, these are easy to spot as the householders have helpfully listed them as ‘stepson’ or ‘stepdaughter’. In other cases it is possible to deduce which children are from previous marriages as the total number of children listed will exceed the number born to the present marriage, and their age will be more than the ‘years the present marriage has lasted’.