An interim glance at the big picture

It’s becoming apparent that, as expected, the proportion of women we have traced through the census and registration data from 1851 to 1891 is consistently lower than that of men. This is the case despite the generally accepted conclusion that men were much more likely to disappear overseas than women.

Overall, of the 921 entries so far in the database, including some populous mining parishes such as Breage, Camborne and Gwennap, 59 per cent of the boys from 1861 have been found – dead or alive – in 1891. For girls the equivalent proportion is 51 per cent. In mining parishes these proportions are lower. In Calstock 53 per cent of men have been traced; 44 per cent of women. In the case of Camborne men, the proportion traced to 1891 is 51 per cent. But for women this falls to just 39 per cent.

% traced to 1891, dead or alive
boysgirls
All59%51%
Calstock53%44%
Camborne51%39%

Name changes on marriage help to explain the difference, adding an extra complication to the ability to link women after marriage. In mining parishes the age of marriage was lower and this does not help. Couples could consider marriage at an earlier age as the earnings of miners peaked quickly. Moreover, women had the opportunity to save money from working as bal maidens.

Literacy rates, as measured by those signing the marriage register with a cross, were also lower in the mining districts. This may have resulted in some more erratic census entries. If that was the case, it needs testing by further research. It’s been proposed that spouses, women in particular, deliberately hid their ability to sign the register on marriage in order not to embarrass their more chirographically challenged partners.

2 thoughts on “An interim glance at the big picture

  1. “It’s been proposed that spouses, women in particular, deliberately hid their ability to sign the register on marriage in order not to embarrass their more chirographically challenged partners.”

    An amazing hypothesis. Would love to know the source, and more about this. I can certainly imagine this to be the case. It is certainly the case in some countries today, like Iran, where working class young men /boys are typically expected to earn from an early age whereas girls may be kept in school for that bit longer.

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    1. The source is Lesley Trotter’s The Married Widows of Cornwall, p.43, where she cites D.J.Steel, National Index of Parish Registers. Vol 1: Sources of birth, marriages and deaths before 1837, London, 1968, p.57.

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