Bringing your Family History to life every month APRIL 2012
  • Contact Us

Q and A



Please could you help solve the mystery of Harvey WRIGHT, born 1858 at Cobham, Surrey? His parents were Henry WRIGHT and Sarah (nee MYHILL). Sarah died in 1865, leaving Henry, aged six, Jesse, aged four (my husband’s granddad), Harvey, aged two, and George, aged four months.

The next time I find Harvey is on the 1881 census as an inmate in an ‘institution’, with the occupation of oilman. I wonder if this was a military place, because if you keep turning the pages there is what seems to be an army barracks, with ages ranging from 21 to 85 years. If this was just an institution, why was the address withheld, or is it a prison?

I cannot find Harvey after this and would value your help.

Mrs J E Wright


The ages you give for the children in 1865, when their mother died, are in fact the ages given on the 1861 census, so they would all have been four years older in 1865, meaning Harvey was born about 1858. The family, with other children born after 1861, is also on the 1871 census, headed by Sarah – so she could not have died in 1865. Sarah is described as married but her husband, Henry, is not at home.

The 1881 census entry you have discovered (RG 11/5643), which includes Harvey, comes from a collection of 1881 census pieces, known by The National Archives as ‘unidentified fragments’. Therefore, where the enumeration was taken and what the nature of the institution was is not evident from the record itself. The first page includes some quite elderly inmates, including a Rebecca STANYARD, aged 76, and Emma BEDDELL, aged 73. Emma died in 1882, and Rebecca in 1884, both in Wandsworth Registration District. I think it possible that the institution in question was the Wandsworth and Clapham Union Workhouse on St John’s Hill. You can find out more about this workhouse on the Workhouses website mentioned in the answer to Pat Jones’ question below.

Search again:

Browse Q and A by Heading
You need to Get the latest version of Adobe Flash to view this.


Subscribe to our
email newsletter:


Win British Newspaper Archive Subscriptions

Discover the genealogical goldmine that is the British Newspaper Archive ( with an online subscription. This recently launched digitisation project has four million pages of searchable family notices, advertisements, obituaries, letters and illustrations from over 200 historic local and national newspapers.

We have a one-year subscription (worth £79.95) to give away as well as two 30-day subscriptions (worth £29.95 each) and four 2-day subscriptions (worth £6.95 each). To be in with a chance of winning one, simply answer the following question. Send answers to or write to the usual address on page three, by the 15th March.

Q: Who invented the printing press in the Holy Roman Empire in 1440?