family memories


Extract from Val and Steve's Family Tree
Extract from Val and Steve’s Family Tree

So, we have Census 2021 this month. The ONS tells us “Buses, trams and trains in your community are planned using census information. Complete your census and show what your community needs.”
How exciting! It has to be completed accurately by law but here is a story about an incorrect Census record. Don’t worry, it was 1911.

One of my 2020 lockdown activities was to explore the family-tree using I had quite a lot of information to start as my Great Aunt Alice Ascoli had written a memoir in 1962 called The Onlooker. Also my Mother had been in contact with both Canadian and Australian branches – and explored the Ramsay and Carnie Scottish roots. See my notes on the Family Tree >

I also knew that other family members had pursued the genealogy before the online resources became so accessible. Gina Marks has pursued the Ascoli story through conventional means. Val and Steve Fermer had also explored their families at St Catherine’s House and the Public Record Office and used “Genes Reunited” before uploading to

Val spotted that I had recorded George Thomas Knapp (1895-1940) as born in Paddington, London, as it is stated on the 1911 Census. For me, it created a block in identifying the record for his parents. Val had the story of his actual birth in a place called Jared Roses in Farmington, Ontario County in New York State, USA. The date was the same 24 May 1975 as shown on the 1939 Register. Adding to the confusion later records show an error in stating “Ontario, Canada”. She continues…

“I have the letter, dated 29th July 1916 from the Town Clerk of Farmington which confirms the date. His parents, William Frederick Knapp and Anna Maria, whose maiden name was Willson were married in Fulham on 13 August 1872.  They immediately travelled to Liverpool and sailed to America and arrived on 10th September 1872. There is an entry on the website which gives the details.  I haven’t checked it recently to confirm that. [This New York City immigration database is currently down.]

William Knapp had been born on 13 July 1854 in Shrivenham and Anna Maria Willson was born 17 October 1850 in Marylebone. William’s parents were George born 25 December 1813 and Ann Jeffrey born approx 1815.  There are many Knapps in the Shrivenham area, with gravestones in the local church.

Farmington. Photo: Val Fermer

The family are on the 1875 Census for Farmington.  They returned in 1877 and another son was born in Paddington in April of that year.
In 1881 William Knapp aged 28 and George Th aged 5 are at 7 P Street in Islington.  George’s place of birth is given as America.
George Thomas Knapp married Mary Ann Eliza Slann in 1898.
In 1901 William Knapp aged 47 was in Paddington. His son, Herbert W was listed as being born in the United States. George Knapp, aged 25 is listed at 22 Esmond Street and is quoted as being born in Canada.

I don’t know why on the 1911 Census George says he was born in Paddington.”

Auction prior to returning to England. Photo: Val Fermer

The 1901 census says for George Knapp born “United States – British Subject”.

The story goes that George Knapp needed evidence of his birth-date in connection with call-up for the Second World War.

It also points to another member of the wider family who had crossed the oceans over one hundred years ago – and often came back. For some there was significant mobility even though most people had a fairly restricted orbit.

Transcription errors are quite common on Ancestry, especially on the older records. I found a “Knopp” family had been recorded on the 1891 census where a note of correction had been added by a user. Val refers to a Anna Maria Willson. I pursued that backwards and sideways but there doesn’t appear to be a connection with our father, Alfred Charles Willson.

Thanks to Val, I have been able to progress with the Fermer/Knapp record.

I will happily share a unique link which provides access to the Willson family tree on
Just email me at

Supplementary story

When we moved into our house in 1987 the postcode ended 2PZ and this was on my driving licence having notified DVLA. Some years later our postcode was split into two becoming 4PZ and 5PZ. (2PZ was no longer used.) I had made the various changes to contact details over the years but kept my old-fashioned pink-paper driving licence until five years ago. I found it was increasingly necessary to use the driving licence as a second form of identity and it eventually caused an issue when the details didn’t match. Same house, different postcode.

And back to the Census 2021. There is an opportunity to add European to the list of identities you can choose.

By Angus Willson

Angus Willson is editor of this site and author of this blogpost.

2 replies on “Census”

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