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Q I am hoping you will be able to help me regarding my great-great-great-grandfather, Joseph ORME(S). I cannot find him in the 1851 census. I have him in the 1841 census and all the other subsequent ones. I, and my cousin, have both searched Runcorn and the surrounding areas without success. As he married in Widnes in 1842, I have searched there too, but no joy. I have also looked on the website, and again I have drawn a complete blank. I did wonder if he might have been in Liverpool as his job took him there – but without a starting point it is just not possible to trawl a large city. Joseph was baptised on 11th July 1832 in Runcorn, the son of Robert ORMS and Hannah DODD. On his 1852 marriage certificate, and in later records, he is occupation is given as waterman. If you have any suggestions as to where to go next, I would be very grateful.

Vivienne Cliff

A As Joseph ORM(E)(S) was a waterman, he could have been almost anywhere in 1851. There are several ways to search the 1851 census return and, as you are desperate, all need to be considered. Firstly there are the original returns and these you could search for Runcorn and Widnes. Secondly, there are the online resources. For 1851, the only complete record set is provided on the Ancestry website ( The North Cheshire Family History Society has published an index to the 1851 census covering Runcorn, as has the Lancashire and SW Lancashire FHS. There is also a published index to the 1851 census of Widnes, produced by Halton Historical Publications. FindMyPast ( is currently working in conjunction with the Federation of Family History Societies to make the 1851 census available on their website. Other websites you could try are The Genealogist ( and FreeCen (, both of which have incomplete coverage for 1851. But the bottom line is that there is every probability that Joseph was missed for some reason from the enumeration or, as an outside possibility, that he was not even in the country.

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