The Year Was 1851

Crystal Palace 1851The year was 1851 and Great Britain was an industrial powerhouse. To celebrate recent innovations, an exhibition was held in London at the Crystal Palace. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) This international exhibition was made up of 13,000 exhibits from around the globe, housed in a huge iron frame covered with a million feet of glass.

It was a memorable year not only for the exhibition, but those with roots in the UK probably associate it with the 1851 census that was on the night of 30 March 1851. Forms were passed out on the days prior and then collected on 31 March, representative of everyone who spent the night in the dwelling. The information collected included:

  • Name of street, place, road, etc.
  • House number or name
  • Name of each person that had spent the night in that household\
  • Relationship of person enumerated to the head of the family
  • Person’s marital status
  • Age at last birthday (sex is indicated by which column the age is recorded in)
  • Person’s rank, profession, or occupation
  • Person’s place of birth (if outside of England or Wales, only the country may be given)
  • Whether blind, deaf, or an idiot

Likewise, in Canada a census was taken in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia, but it wasn’t taken in one night like it was in the UK, and in some cases stretched into 1852. Questions asked varied among the provinces that were enumerated. (More information on what questions were asked can be found online in the Ancestry member database description of that enumeration.

In Limerick, Ireland, a blustery and thundering Sunday took a turn for the worse as a tornado cut a 150-foot swath through the city with winds estimated at 115 mph. Because the city took a direct hit, the damage was significant particularly in the market areas that were thankfully not busy because it was Sunday and the weather was so inclement.

In the United States, weather was taking a toll in Iowa. An unusually wet 1850 was followed in May by persistent rains that fell on saturated ground. The rains continued into July and rivers and streams swelled over their banks sweeping away buildings, livestock and trees, and devastating farmland. Southeastern areas of the state, which were also the most populous, were hardest hit.

Settlers were streaming even further westward, and in November 1851 the Denny party landed at Alki Point in Washington. In a couple years, these settlers would be the first residents of Seattle, which was laid out in 1853.

On Christmas Eve, a fire began in the Library of Congress. More than two-thirds of the collection was destroyed, including the part of the personal library of Thomas Jefferson, which had been donated in 1815 following the burning of the Capitol in 1814 by the British during the War of 1812.

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Image: Crystal Palace from the Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry.

One thought on “The Year Was 1851

  1. Good advice as usual but it is essential to back up the info on DVD or other media or it could all be lost

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