Sewells in the 1881 Census

By Ian Sewell

This article was published in the August 2016 edition of Soul Search, the Journal of The Sole Society

With the placing of the 1881 census in to a database I have been able to do some rough analysis of the 5900 Sewell and variant entries which shows some interesting facts.
With the coming of general literacy the variant spelling of our name died out and 82.5% of the names recorded were Sewells. The only other variant to have any significant number was Saywell with 7.3%. The remaining just over 10% are made up of the remaining variants. However in many cases this is due to the enumerator’s choice since I have found other records for some of them using the standard Sewell name. The exception is Sowell which seems to have a strong presence in Cornwall still.
The most common male names are: Willian 376, John 273, George 181, Thomas 147 and James 135. Female names are: Elizabeth & variants 334, Mary 169, Sarah 130, Jane 121 and Ann 92. The most common names used today like Oliver, Jack & Jacob barely get an entry though Harry has 38 entries, the same applies though to a lesser extent the girls names Amelia (13 entries), Olivia (1), Isla (0) and Emily (54). As an aside 51.2% entries were female and 48.8 male.
When we look at the top ten locations of Sewells in the 1881 census we can see that our heartlands are there as expected as well as the London conurbation (see table below).
However when we do the same with country of birth the order changes significantly, showing clearly the drift from the agricultural counties to the more industrial areas (see table below)
As nearly 38% of the entries are ages 15 or under it is not surprising that scholar accounts for 1189 (20%) of the occupations. This does however means that over a thousand children 15 or under were not in school and likely working for a living. After this labourers (agricultural, general and other) was the next most popular occupation. Followed by dressmaker, housekeeper, domestic servant and laundress which shows the number of women actually in work. On the other end of the spectrum there were 43 annuitants showing that some had money. Industry is also represented by 54 railway workers, 29 blacksmiths and 25 coal miners all in the Cumberland region.
Amongst the less common occupations were castrator (vet assistant), journeyman fish sauce maker, letter carrier (or postman), mangler (user of a mangle to wring out water), tallow chandler (candle maker), tring winder (probably a string winder in a textile factory), tweed knotter (making knots in tweed, probably carpets) and tin streamer (mining for Tin by hand in a stream).

Table Showing Top 10 Sewell locations by County in 1881 Census
Table Showing Top 10 Locations for Sewell Births in 1881 Census