Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Names and Status in the 1881 Census (a test case)

I've been thinking, on and off, over the past year about whether a name can tell us anything about the status (or class, social position etc.) of an individual. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, in particular, has tackled contemporary attitudes towards names and the idea that a name is someone's 'destiny'. Today, people are able to tell you that such a name is trashy or chavvy, and another name is classy. These opinions can be subjective, but it is notable that you can see that certain groups of people do use different types of names - the most popular names in the Daily Telegraph and Times birth announcements in the UK skew slightly away from what is nationally popular (see my study here and a report from the Daily Telegraph in 2007).

Now, in the past, I've compiled data for Victorian names, but this has mainly been from birth records, which don't tell you anything about parents' occupations or 'social class' (aside from what you can infer from where their birth was registered). So I wondered whether the 1881 census - which is free to view - could tell me more about names and occupations. I decided to focus upon a small slice of life, where hierarchy is more obvious - masters (or family) and servants.1 Were certain names more popular amongst servants or their employers? (who, as their employers, would be of a higher social position or, at least, richer).

The next step was to work out where to get this data. I've been watching The Secret History of Our Streets on the BBC recently, which looks at how streets have changed since Charles Booth's Inquiry into Life and Labour in London (1886-1903). I looked at the digitised Maps Descriptive of London Poverty 1898-99,  and selected Gloucester Terrace in Paddington as my test street.2 This terrace is coloured yellow on the map, meaning that it was occupied by the wealthy, servant keeping class in Booth's day (about 17 years after the 1881 census). Booth was more interested in poverty rather than distinctions between the servant keeping classes so, as I found when I studied Gloucester Terrace in more depth, the street wasn't occupied by aristocrats.3 However, every house had at least one servant and, unlike today, when it seems that most of the houses in Gloucester Terrace are now flats, most of the houses seem to have been occupied by one family. A distinction between servants or staff, and family or employers was really all I needed for this study.

I then collected the data from the 1881 census for Gloucester Terrace, culminating in 741 individuals.4 I judged that this was a sample large enough to see if any distinction between 'staff' names and 'family' names could be made.
My data is online here.

This is how it breaks down:
Total: 741 individuals -
M: 183 (24.7%)
F: 558 (75.3%)

Family: 316 (42.6%)
Staff: 406 (54.8%)
Boarder: 11 (1.5%)5
Visitor: 8 (1.1%)

Total Family: 316
M Family: 115 (36.4% of family)
F Family: 201 (63.6%)

Total Staff: 406
M Staff: 59 (14.5% of staff)
F Staff: 347 (85.5%)

I've compared these lists with the overall census name data:6
1. Mary =
2. Elizabeth =
3. Jane + 2
4. Sarah =
=. Ellen + 1.5
6. Ann/Anne -3
7. Emma +3
=. Eliza -0.5
9. Maria +6.5
=. Louisa +5.5
11. Alice -3
12. Margaret -2.5
=. Emily -0.5
14. Charlotte +6
15. Caroline +9
Missing from top 15: Annie, Hannah, Martha

The + - and = shows how the Gloucester Terrace positions are different from the overall 1881 census popularity chart. The list mainly conforms to the overall census popularity list at the top - with Mary, Elizabeth and Sarah in the same positions, but nearer the bottom, names such as Maria, Louisa, Charlotte and Caroline are more popular while Annie (#16), Hannah and Martha are not in the list.

1. William =
2. Charles +5
3. John +1
4. Thomas -1.5
=. Henry +1.5
6. James +1
7. George -3.5
=. Frederick +3.5
9. Arthur +5
10. Walter +5
=. Robert -2
=. Edward -1
13. Alfred -1
14. Francis +10.5
=. Alexander +17.5
Missing from top 15: Richard, Samuel

As mentioned before, the male sample is smaller so the bottom of the list is quite inaccurate (Alexander, with three males in Gloucester Terrace having this name is thus able to shoot up 17.5 places). It mainly conforms with a little shuffling around at the top of the list, aside from Charles which moves up 5 places.

Masters and Servants
Next, I've worked out how many names were borne by the 'family', the masters, as this was the smaller dataset in the female set. Consequently (aside from the 2.6% of visitors and boarders), the opposite is true of staff.

 Top 10:
1. Mary 18 (9.0%) =
2. Margaret/Margret 9 (4.5%) +11.5
3. Emma 8 (4.0%) +3.5
=. Elizabeth 8 -1.5
5. Emily 7 (3.5%) +7.5
6. Edith 6 (3.0%) +12
7. Maria 5 (2.5%) +0.5
=. Ellen 5 -4
=. Caroline 5 +6.5
=. Ann/Anne 5 -2.5
Missing from top 10, but in top 10 total: Jane, Sarah, Louisa

There is a lot of change in this list - Margaret, Emily and have risen high, while Jane, Sarah and Louisa have disappeared completely. However, Mary is still the most popular name.

Looking at which names, overall, are more likely to be borne or not borne by 'family' it is necessary to take into account that 36% of females are family females. Thus, I looked for names with significantly more or less (about 15% + or -) than 36% of instances as family names: 

Proportionately few:
Sarah: 2 out of 24 instances are family females
Jane: 3 out of 25
Fanny: 1 out of 8
Elizabeth: 8 out of 41
Clara: 1 out of 6
Susan: 0 out of 6
Esther: 1 out of 6

Proportionately many:
Margaret: 9 out of 13
Emily: 7 out of 14
Caroline: 5 out of 9
Isabella: 4 out of 6
Edith: 6 out of 8
Grace: 4 out of 5
Helen: 4 out of 4
Ethel: 4 out of 4
Agnes: 3 out of 3
Henrietta: 3 out of 3
Ros- names: 5 out of 6 

Consequently, one can say that the first list are more likely to be borne by servants (Sarah and Jane seem to be the most significant examples) and the bottom list are more likely to be borne by masters or family (Margaret and Edith are the most significant examples). 

Single instance names occurring as family names: Ada, Alexandrina, Amelia, Augusta, Catherina, Cecil, Christian, Constance, Evalle, Eveline, Evelyn, Florrance, Francesca, Georgia, Gladys, Gwendolyn, Henriotte, Ina, Jenny, Joanna, Josie, Julia, Justona, Kathlean, Lilian, Mable, Madeline, Nina, Nona, Nora, Phoebe, Sidney, Tina, Winifred (34 single instance names out of 61 total)

Thus, it seems that 'masters' were more likely to have an unusual, single use name than a servant. 


Top 10:
1. William =
2. Charles =
=. John -0.5
=. Henry +1.5
=. Frederick +4.5 
6. Thomas -2
7. Arthur -2
8. Robert +1
=. James -4
=. George -2.5
=. Edward +1
=. Alexander +3.5
Missing from top 10: Walter

There is less change in the male top 10, though this may be because it is a smaller dataset. Also, 62.8% of males are family males, unlike females where there was a higher % of servant females. So the popular list would be expected to conform more with the overall popularity list.  Names with significantly more or less than 62.8% of instances as family names: 

Proportionately few:
James: 3 out of 10
George: 3 out of 8

Proportionately many:
Frederick: 7 out of 8
Alexander: 3 out of 3
Richard: 2 out of 2
Montague: 2 out of 2
Godfrey: 2 out of 2

Thus, James and George seem to be borne more often by 'servants', while Frederick seems to be the only significantly 'master' name. I think that the number of the others is too small (eg 3 of 3, 2 of 2) to be statistically significant. In the case of Montague, this is a father and son.

Single instance names occurring as family names: Basil, Bayly, Brand, Christopher, David, Dennis, Elias, Ernest, Eustace, Geoffrey, Gilbert, Hans, Horatio, Irving, Jasias, Joseph, Julius, Laurence, Leslie, Lewis, Nathan, Neil, Paudely, Percival, Percy, Philip, Samuel, Tom (28 single instance names out of 34 total).

Like the female names, higher class males seem more likely to have an unusual, single use name.

The evidence from Gloucester Terrace suggests that there is some difference between the names borne by servants and masters, and thus some names seem to be higher status (Margaret, Edith, Frederick) than others (Sarah, Jane, Fanny, James, George). Also, those of higher status were more likely to bear an unusual, single use name.

I considered whether such differences could be explained by the ages of the inhabitants - employers could include a range of ages, from 0 to 90, whereas servants are more likely to be between the ages of 15 and 60. However, in the case of Edith (all bearers aged between ages 18-42) and Frederick (21-57), this does not seem to be the case as neither have bearers at the two extremes of age where servants are not found. However, in the case of Margaret, 10 of the bearers are between 15-60, but two are under 10 and one is over 60. One of the Carolines, two Isabellas and one Grace were also over 60. I don't think that this is statistically significant enough to disprove the idea that certain names were less likely to be borne by women in higher or lower social positions.

A further line of inquiry might be to see if the trends that I found in birth records in my 'Victorian Smiths' series can be seen in the different aged women - are the names of the 1840s and earlier - Jane and Maria - borne predominantly by older women, and are children bearing the names popular in 1870s birth records? (Florence is my Victorian name obsession, as concerns trends, and in Gloucester Terrace it is borne by one women, a 27 year old family member (b.1854 - fits very nicely with the Crimean War)).

1.For simplicity, I kept it as two categories, rather than dividing servants into housekeepers or lady's maids, who would be of a higher social position than housemaids or scullery maids.
2. Initially, I identified several streets to look at - Grosvenor Square, Cavendish Square, Curzon Street and Belgrave Square will be my next test cases if I take this further.
3. The occupants are mainly retired colonialists, doctors, lawyers and women living on shares or annuities. There are a lot more women than men, due to all these widows living off shares and female maids.
4. Collecting the data was a bit of a palaver. When I made a few tentative inquiries into whether a difference between servant and master names could be seen a few months ago, allowed you to flick along a road between each household. But they've updated their website and no longer let you do that. Instead, I had to find out which pieces and folios the Gloucester Terrace data was on, and then plug that information into Ancestry to find out the page numbers (two for each folio) and then plug those three numbers into findmypast, which would give me a transcription of each household. The Gloucester Terrace data was on several different folios and pieces, so every six households or so I had to look up all these numbers again.
5. I wasn't sure whether to class boarders or visitors as family or servants (unless it specifically said that they were a 'niece' or 'sister-in-law' etc.) so as they comprise only 2.6% of the data, I've mainly ignored them.
6. See Tucker, D. K. (2003) 'An analysis of the forenames and surnames of England and Wales listed in the UK 1881 census data', Onoma 38, pp.181-216. I didn't use my own data for 1880s as that comes from birth records, whereas Tucker's study looks at the census results.