Sunday, April 21, 2013

Research Sunday: Names in Workhouses of the 1881 census

Following my post on Names and Status in the 1881 census, I've been thinking about how else status can easily be seen in the 1881 census. In my previous post, I looked at 'masters' and 'servants', and how that situation implies higher and lower status. When one speaks of 'low status', you couldn't get much lower in Victorian Britain than the workhouse. Workhouses were places where people who could not support themselves could live and have employment. Whilst they provided relief for the poor, life inside workhouses was intended to be harsh - you had to be destitute and desperate.

I found that have transcribed the 1881 census and put it into tables - making it easy to copy and order the relevant data in Excel. I chose to look at workhouses situated in London, mainly the East End, for my sample. The workhouses I sampled were:

This provided me with 4011 records,which can be broken down into 2002 men and 2009 women, a fairly even split, although I think some of the records have the wrong gender assigned (eg a female Thomas Collins and a male Rebecca Stockley). I ended up with 1994 male and 1994 female named people (some did not have a name recorded). As I was able to copy the tables, this is a study that could be easily expanded or replicated - but I stopped with 4011 as that is a workable amount to count the names.

I worked out the order of the names, the % of the total who bore that name and then have compared them with 1881 census data for the general population.

Their top 20s are as followed:

Rank Rank compared with 1881 census total Name Workhouses Count % % compared with 1881 census total
1 = William 346 17.35 +4
2 = John 289 14.49 +2.1
3 = Thomas 171 8.58 +0.7
4 +1 James 155 7.77 +1.2
5 -1 George 139 6.97 0
6 = Henry 120 6.02 +1.4
7 = Charles 93 4.66 +0.6
8 = Joseph 73 3.66 +0.3
9 +1 Edward 55 2.76 +0.2
10 +1 Frederick 54 2.71 +0.3
11 -1 Robert 48 2.41 -0.3
12 +3 Samuel 46 2.31 +0.5
13 = Richard 41 2.06 +0.1
14 -2 Alfred 34 1.71 -0.3
15 +11 Daniel 27 1.35 +0.9
16 +8 Benjamin 25 1.25 +0.6
17 = Albert 22 1.10 -0.2
18 -4 Arthur 20 1.00 -0.9
19 -1 David 16 0.80 -0.3
20 -4 Walter 14 0.70 -0.7

This top 20 is fairly concordant this is with the 1881 general population census data. Apart from a little swapping around, and Benjamin and Daniel being much more popular at #15 and #16, there isn't much of a difference. The most notable difference is that this top 20 counts for a larger percentage of the names used than the general population census data. (89.67% of workhouse males had names in this top 20 compared with 80.4% of the general population having a top 20 name). 

The majority of the population is low status (that's generally how status works) and as the general population census data reflects the names popular among the majority, it reflects the names that are popular among those of 'low status', diluted slightly by names that might have a strong regional identity (such as Malcolm, popular in Scotland - I think a great further study would look at names that show strong regionality). 

The male name that seemed more 'high status' in my previous study - Frederick - is in about the same position as in the general population here. James and George, which were more 'low status' are in about the same position as the general population as well. In general then, the names borne by males in the workhouses seem to reflect the names that were popular among the general population.

A wordle (I copied in full names, hence why you might be able to see popular surnames such as Smith and Brown in the background):

Benjamin and Daniel
A quick word on Benjamin and Daniel, as they are the two names that do show a significant increase in popularity from the 1881 census data. Benjamin covers most ages (there are no 20-30 year old Benjamins, but there are 10 year olds and 60 year olds), all the workhouses and are mostly born in and around London.
Daniel however, is borne almost exclusively by 40+ year olds and includes five men whose birthplace is listed as Ireland. It is the second most popular name (after John) of men whose birthplace is listed as Ireland, so that might account for its increased popularity - that a significant number of men born in Ireland ended up in east London in 1880s.


Rank Rank compared with 1881 census total Name Workhouses Count % % compared with 1881 census total
1 = Mary 321 16.10 +3.1
2 = Elizabeth 211 10.58 +2.3
3 +1 Sarah 162 8.12 +1.7
4 -1 Ann 153 7.67 +1.1
5 = Jane 79 3.96 -0.7
6 = Ellen 79 3.96 +0.9
7 = Eliza 71 3.56 +0.8
8 +3 Margaret 53 2.66 +0.3
9 +1 Emma 51 2.56 -0.1
10 +7 Catherine 49 2.46 +1.3
11 +4 Louisa 42 2.11 +0.8
12 -4 Alice 41 2.06 -0.7
13 +11 Caroline 40 2.01 +1.1
14 -1 Hannah 34 1.71 -0.3
15 +2 Maria 33 1.65 +0.4
16 +15 Susan 32 1.60 +1
17 -5 Emily 28 1.40 -0.7
18 +2 Charlotte 27 1.35 +0.3
19 +10 Frances 27 1.35 +0.7
20 -2 Harriet 26 1.30 +0.1
While the top 7 is fairly concordant with the general population top 7, the rest of the top 20 is full of movement. Some names have risen dramatically (Catherine, Caroline, Susan, Frances), others have dropped into obscurity (Annie has dropped 16 places to #25, Edith is #19 in the general population but only has one workhouse bearer).  Again, as with the male names, this top 20 accounts for a larger % of the names borne than the general population - 79% compared with 68% (and note, as almost always, this shows there is more variety in female names than male names). 

A note on Margaret. In my previous 1881 post, I found that Margaret was more likely to be borne by the higher status individuals ('masters') than the lower status ones ('servants'). However, this study shows that it was borne by more workhouse inmates than among the general population. I wondered if this was a regionality thing - that more London-born people were named Margaret, but as many of the workhouse Margarets were born in Ireland, then this seems less likely. 

Catherine, Caroline, Susan, Frances
Most of the Catherines, Susans, Carolines and Frances are 40+, indeed, much of the workhouse population is 40+, as workhouses became places where the destitute elderly who could not work to support themselves could end up. My Victorian Smiths studies showed that all these names peaked in the 1840-50s (and probably earlier, as I was not able to study beyond 1840). So they are more popular amongst the 40+ year olds than the younger inmates. 

Names that experienced steeper popularity curves - were less popular in 1840s and more popular around 1880 - such as Alice, Edith, Annie, Emily, Florence (#38 compared with #21 general, and would be #1 or 2 by 1900), Beatrice (no workhouse entries) and Maud (2 workhouse entries) are all less popular in the workhouse, reflecting the lower numbers of young people in the workhouse and perhaps, the fact that once in the workhouse, women were unable to produce and support large numbers of children. Mary would be the name for a first child, Elizabeth for the second but they wouldn't get to the fifth or sixth child which they could name a more unusual name such as Florence or Beatrice.

An exciting chart based on my Victorian Smiths data:
Hannah, Harriet and Martha don't follow this general trend, but only Martha is significantly less popular amongst the workhouse population.

A wordle (I think Elizabeth looks a bit small compared with Ann because it is such a long name):