This has been a pretty quiet week for me, but one item that may be of interest concerns Dr Thomas Hunt (1798-1879).
You can read about him on my website (www.geoffsgenealogy.co.uk).
I have traced him on all census returns in the period 1851-1871, but have never found him in 1841. I decided to have a go at this. Information I already have, from the Royal College of Surgeons and the records of baptisms of his children, leads me to believe that he was living at Herne Bay, Kent, at that time. To confirm this I found him in Pigot's Directory of 1840, at 11 Marine Terrace, Herne Bay.
It should be an easy task to find the census returns for Herne Bay, using Ancestry.com. However, I could not find them. I looked at all sorts of research aids, including the listing of census districts in Kent in 1841 on Ancestry.com, various reference books that I have at home, and internet sites such as Wikipedia and Genuki. No luck. I know that births of the children of Thomas were registered in Blean registration district, so I looked at CEBs for Blean. No trace of Dt Hunt! I then tried searching Census Enumerators' Books (CEBs) for Herne. Again, no trace of the elusive doctor.
I have searched the index to the 1841 Census Returns on Ancestry.com, looking for Thomas, his wife, and several of the children. No trace of any of them. I can quite accept that the family may not have been in Herne Bay on 7 June 1841, but surely, I thought, I should be able to find the census returns for Herne Bay!
When I looked at Pigot's Directory for Kent, published c1850, I started to think of a possible reason for this problem. The description of the township told me that Herne Bay was fairly new creation, and had really not existed as a town before the mid 1830s. This raised the possibility in my mind that I was looking for a place that, as far as officialdom was concerned, did not exist in 1841! If this was the case, maybe the people who lived in Herne Bay were not enumerated, or alternatively, they may have been enumerated under the name of a nearby settlement.
I decided to ask the locals. Finding the website of the Kent Family History Society I sent an email, asking whether they could kindly tell me where I can find the 1841 CEBs for Herne Bay. I received a reply in no time! It said that Herne Bay did not really exist in 1841. I then asked whether they could suggest to me where I may find the relevant census returns, and I await their reply.
I have gone through all this in some detail in order to demonstrate two points.
Firstly, it is often that case that what seems at first to be a routine piece of research can surprise us and take us into areas that we don't expect. It seems likely that in order to research the Hunt clan in 1841 I need to be aware of something of the local history. Part of the joy of family history for me is that we learn so many other things in addition to who our forebears were, and we shouldn't expect the often excellent indexes that we have at our disposal to provide us with every answer.
The other point I want to make is the great value of family history societies. I realise that as I serve on the committee of my local society I can be said to be biased, but these organisations are worth their weight in gold, believe me. They provide fellowship, and access to vast amounts of knowledge in a variety of forms. Invariably, a request for help to a family history society is met with a positive and helpful response, and I recommend that all of us should (a) join at least our local society and (b) make use of the great resources that they make available.
It is a sad fact that in these days of growing internet research resources, less and less people are joining family history societies, and if it comes to the point at which societies start to fold we shall all be the poorer for it.
I visited my local LDS Family History Center on Thursday last, only to find that the film that awaited me was not the one I had intended to order. Instead of containing Baptisms at Monkwearmouth in the early - mid nineteenth century it contained Burials for the nineteenth century and late eighteenth century. As I had already transcribed the burials entries that interest me, there was very little I could achieve by using this film. I therefore searched a twenty year period in the late eighteenth century that I had not seen previously, and then returned the film.
I have ordered the film containing the baptisms that I do want to search, and hope that it will arrive in a couple of weeks time.