Short-term family migration

Although it’s proved difficult to find a high proportion of the 11 year olds living in Camborne in 1861 and trace their life-courses through to 1891 most can be traced over the shorter period from 1851 to 1871. This enables us to test a feature that demographers have commonly asserted was present in nineteenth century Britain (and earlier) – that of frequent short-distance moves. This is sometimes called ‘churning’ or circular migration. This directionless movement was a result of moves from one rented property to another as family numbers grew or shrank, deaths occurred, incomes rose or fell and people tried to keep rents and other outgoings within limits.

As children aged 11 in 1861 form the basis for this research, they must all have been alive in 1851. Their locations in 1851 and 1861 therefore inform us of the moves of families as a unit over that decade. Three families were not found in 1851 but the other 156 were. A third had the same address in both census years. This will be an underestimate of stability as some placenames varied between censuses and an apparently different place was in fact the same place. Almost a half, or 44 per cent, had moved from somewhere else in the parish. The rest, almost a quarter, had moved to Camborne from elsewhere in Cornwall, while one family had come from Hampshire and another had returned from the US.

Turning to moves from 1861 to 1871, we find that of the 159 children in the database, 93 were still living in the family home, the rest having married, died or disappeared. The proportion with the same address had increased to 45 per cent, with around 40 per cent moving within the parish. Only 14 per cent, of families had moved to other parishes, most of them again in Cornwall. There was one family in London, another in Durham and one in Australia. As parents grew older, this picture of declining family mobility is in line with expectations.