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Elizabeth Firth
23-04-2005, 2:22 PM
Can anyone tell me if Canal workers were on censuses?

Geoffers
23-04-2005, 4:30 PM
Can anyone tell me if Canal workers were on censuses?
Are you referring to those on vessels (narrow boats, wherries etc) on inland waterways? If so, 'A Clearer Sense of the Census' by Edward Higgs (ISBN 0-11-44025703, publ. HMSO 1996) states on page 44, "No attempt appears to have been made to make a nominal enumeration of these vessels in 1841 and 1851. Enumerators were merely asked to calculate the numbers of males and females on such vessels and insert this figure in one of their preliminary tables."

Attempts were made to obtain nominal information from 1861, though this seems to have been hit-and-miss. The standard ships schedules used for this purpose were added at the end of household returns for the relevant enumeration district.

Geoffers
Charlbury, Oxfordshire

Felix1000
07-03-2008, 8:06 PM
Hit and miss sums it up I am afraid, although in the 1881 census in Manchester all canal boats are listed along the various canals'My family of Boat people' were the Cutts and Wheatcroft families who went from Nottingham to Manchester. If you loook in the trade Directories you may find the names you are looking for and then check the census for that area.

Alan Welsford
07-03-2008, 8:57 PM
If you loook in the trade Directories you may find the names you are looking for and then check the census for that area.
Hello there,

I'm slightly curious what names you would be looking for in trade directories.

I'd have thought you are unlikely to find those operating the boats in them, even if they were "number ones" who owned their own boats.

Trade directories might list the companies that owned the boats, or owned or operated the wharfs they tied up at. However unless you have been lucky enough come across some very comprehensive canal records showing who your folk worked for, or who's cargoes they carried, I can't quite see how trade directories could help you.

I've found the only way is to look for the individual you think should be on the canal system somewhere with a "countrywide" search, and just hope they record a place of birth that is one of those you already know about for them.

I have been able to find narrow boat crews in 3 successive censuses, but I'd say that degree of success is unusual. Others I can only find once.

Alan

MythicalMarian
07-03-2008, 11:44 PM
Reading this thread has made me wonder exactly what the definition is of 'a canal boatman'. My mother's ancestors were 'canal boatmen' and are found in every census at home, no problem - with their occupation stated as 'boatman', 'coal boatman' or 'canal boatman'. This occupation also appears as father's occupation on birth certificates etc.

Why then, are mine at home? Are there different categories of boatmen? I know that the canal worked by my men ran alongside their homes (it still does today). Was there a category of boatmen that only worked during the day? As far as I know (and I am only going back to my grandfather at the latest), our boatmen were never away for very long periods.

Alan Welsford
08-03-2008, 12:01 AM
There is no one size fits all answer to that question it seems.

A standard response I've seen, and have trotted out myself, says that up until the coming of the railways, boatmen could afford to keep their families in canalside cottages, but that the reduction in wages after that meant they had to take the whole family afloat. It's certainly true that narrow-boaters involved in long haul traffic lived with their families on the boats, and had no other home.

But clearly that's not always the case, as you do find "canal boatmen" and landside addresses.

I'm wondering if these were on canals where there was a lot of short-haul work. The Birmingham Canal Navigations would be an obvious such example - many of the boats used there either only had day cabins, or more often than not, none at all. There was no chance of people living on a standard BCN 'Joey'.

Where were your lot based, and which canal(s) are we talking about, please ?

Alan

MythicalMarian
08-03-2008, 12:36 AM
There is no one size fits all answer to that question it seems.

A standard response I've seen, and have trotted out myself, says that up until the coming of the railways, boatmen could afford to keep their families in canalside cottages, but that the reduction in wages after that meant they had to take the whole family afloat. It's certainly true that narrow-boaters involved in long haul traffic lived with their families on the boats, and had no other home.

But clearly that's not always the case, as you do find "canal boatmen" and landside addresses.

I'm wondering if these were on canals where there was a lot of short-haul work. The Birmingham Canal Navigations would be an obvious such example - many of the boats used there either only had day cabins, or more often than not, none at all. There was no chance of people living on a standard BCN 'Joey'.

Where were your lot based, and which canal(s) are we talking about, please ?

Alan

Thanks for the reply, Alan - they were based in Dukinfield Cheshire, right by the canal in the area known as 'Dukinfield Hall' - and they did not live in cabins - they were in terraced houses along Gate Street, Ashton Street and the like. My Mum was born in such a house.

I think your comment about the short haul work must be the answer here, for my lot. Also, they wouldn't own the boats but be employed by a boat owner - so that is possibly another explanation. As there were collieries nearby - notably the huge Astley Colliery - perhaps they were employed loading coal onto the boats?

I've always been useless with water, but you can still walk along the canal today, and it seems to go through Stalybridge, Ashton, Dukinfield and Hyde. It's a bit confusing, as there are three canals that pass through this area, including the Huddersfield Canal.

ETA: I've just had a trawl through the Internet - it is called The Peak Forest Canal.

MythicalMarian
08-03-2008, 1:00 AM
As an addendum to my post above - I have just been googling and discovered a thread on a news forum from Rootsweb back in 2001, in which a member was 'collecting' boatmen from the 1881 census in Cheshire. She has listed over 20 families all living along Astley Street in Dukinfield - my own Turner family included - who were all boat men.

I hope this sheds light on things. Having read up a tiny bit in the last few mins on the history of The Peak Forest Canal it seems that it was used to distribute coal from the new pits in the area. I suppose this is why my lot shift between being called 'canal boatmen' and 'coal boatmen'. In either case, it seems they did not live on the boats as such.

Alan Welsford
08-03-2008, 12:43 PM
I think your comment about the short haul work must be the answer here, for my lot.

Well I don't really know the Northern canals, my knowledge is much stronger down South.

If they actually operated the boats, (as opposed to other canal related occupations), then the only explanation I can think of is short haul workings.

It could take 5 days or more to bring a load of coal down from Midlands coalfields to London, so clearly living at home was not an option for crews involved in long distance carriage.


Also, they wouldn't own the boats but be employed by a boat owner - so that is possibly another explanation.

No, that won't be it. Very few canal narrow boat crews owned their own boats - nearly all were owned by companies. Owner operators were known as "Number ones", and were a rare and fairly elite breed.


As there were collieries nearby - notably the huge Astley Colliery - perhaps they were employed loading coal onto the boats?

I'd not expect them to be described as canal "boatmen", then.


ETA: I've just had a trawl through the Internet - it is called The Peak Forest Canal.
I believe that canal was legally abandoned, before being reopened for pleasure use. I've never cruised it.


I suppose this is why my lot shift between being called 'canal boatmen' and 'coal boatmen'. In either case, it seems they did not live on the boats as such.

I think that definitely means they operated them. I've not seen "coal boatmen", because generally any of a variety of cargoes could be carried. They got little money for running empty, so a crew that had brought coal south from the midlands, would hope to return with a different load. (Grain is one such example). It sound's like your lot probably just did short haul work for coal, probably to newly growing local industry with a heavy requirement for fossil fuels.

You are lucky if they lived on land - those who travelled with the boats can be fairly invisible to the census process, and I suspect often didn't bother with civil registration of births.

Alan

MythicalMarian
08-03-2008, 2:26 PM
Thanks for all this wonderful information, Alan. It has certainly helped to fill out the picture of their lives. I do know that granddad himself abandoned work on the boats when he married and went 'on the railways' instead - my mother told me this.

However, although my great grandfather boatman, Thomas, had many children, his own father, John, had only three sons and there were largish gaps between their births - so I now wonder, in the light of your information whether John was more of a travelling boatman in his earlier years. Just a thought. However, I agree that I have been very lucky to find him on all censuses.

Felix1000
08-03-2008, 7:57 PM
Many working on the canals were known as wharfingers, The main Canal system from Nottingham to Manchester went through Whaley Bridge,Droylsden and Ashton Under lyne. My own Cutts family left the canals and went to work on the Railways in the 1850 period.Also with regards to the trade directories both fmailies in my wifes line IE Wheatcroft and Cutts had their own business and ran from their own wharfes in Nottingham and Manchester.This enabled me get photos of their original homes.

Alan Welsford
08-03-2008, 8:29 PM
Many working on the canals were known as wharfingers.

Agreed.

Although I think it would not be unreasonable to say that that is clearly not just a canal based occupation, and that the majority of people in a census having that occupation would be employed at locations that are not canal locations.


The main Canal system from Nottingham to Manchester went through Whaley Bridge,Droylsden and Ashton Under lyne

This probably sounds like I'm being a bit 'picky', but I don't think crews going from Nottingham to Manchester would have naturally travelled to Whaley Bridge. It sat at the end of the Peak Forest Canal, a branch from the main route, and was not on a through route as such.

It's the kind of place that would have had 'wharfingers', as it was an interchange point with rail transport.

Finally, thanks for the explanation as to why trade directories were useful for your family.

Best wishes,

Alan

ann.pitts
17-04-2008, 8:23 PM
were there separate census taken for canal boatmen
ann

Alan Welsford
17-04-2008, 8:37 PM
were there separate census taken for canal boatmen
ann
No,

If they appear in a census, they do so in just the same way as anybody else, except obviously their address is enumerated as being the boat they are on, rather than in a house.

Unlike seagoing vessels, they are not recorded on different forms from land based people. They sit in districts, alongside "normal folk", and are generally found in the final pages for the district.

It's incredibly hit and miss whether any census captures live-aboard canal families, or not. I believe that as the censuses progressed more emphasis was placed on trying to record them but the success rate was never good.

If your particular families happened to be on wharf at a fairly major location, then you'll probably find them. If they were on the move, on a long distance run, my experience is that you will not.

I'd say if they were genuine liveaboards, who never had a land address, your chances of finding them in a census are generally no better than 50%

Alan

DONNAMCKENZIE
09-11-2008, 3:18 PM
My Dad lived on Ashton street as a boy. I don't live that far away now. What was the address you were looking for . Alot of the old terraced houses ar still standing on Astley street. These houses backed straight on to the canal and the railway was on the opposite side. If you have an address I could seee if the house was still standing and take a photo for you.

regards Donna