Here’s what happened when our writers used the 1921 census to uncover their family history


How touching it is to read about my grandparents when they were children. Only one of them survived in my lifetime – what a time travel miracle to see them early in their lives, thanks to the 1921 census.

On June 19, 1921, Robin Mount, my paternal grandfather, was 14 years old and was at Eton College. In the “Head Relation” section, he is nicely described as an “inmate” at school. Because he was in residential school, the “returning person” was his householder, CHK Marten Esq. His older brother, William Mount (David Cameron’s grandfather, by the way), 16, was another “inmate”.

Their parents, Sir William Mount, Tory MP for Newbury, and Lady Mount, were absent at their family home, Wasing Place, Berkshire. There were also nine servants in the house. How the Names of Servants take you back to a forgotten time: Walter Reginald Harris, Herbert Lewis Beaman, Mira Chandler, Clara Matilda Dean, Edith Esmaralda Jeffery, Agnes McGeorge, Pashli Jane Andrews and Florence Elizabeth Wild.

I thought my grandfather was born in Berkshire. Wrong! I found out he was born in London. What gaping gaps the census fills.

At the time, the deep wounds of World War I were fresh. My great-grandfather, the Earl of Longford, was killed in Gallipoli in 1915. So his youngest daughter, Lady Julia Pakenham (later to marry Robin Mount), seven, lived in a fatherless house in 1921 She was at North Aston Hall. , Oxfordshire, with her mother and three sisters, Pansy, Mary and Violet. Rather than going to school, they had a housekeeper, Edith Mary Lavingdon, described as a “46 year old bachelor.” His two brothers, the Earl of Longford and Frank Pakenham (later prison reformer Lord Longford), were also being held at Eton. Also at North Aston there were five servants: a footman, a waiter, a maid, a nanny and a scullery boy.

My maternal grandfather, Archie Lucas, was also being held in Eton. Her younger sister, Elizabeth, 12, lived at her home in Hanover Square, London, with her parents, William and Beatrice Lucas. They had seven servants, ranging in age from 15 to 61.

I couldn’t find any trace of my maternal grandmother, Nina Grenfell, then 16, or her father, Field Marshal Lord Grenfell (hence the name Grenfell Tower), who had just turned 80 years old in 1921. He fathered my grandmother at 63 years old. How I wish to know more about them. The magic census cannot fill all the mysterious gaps in our family histories.

The recordings capture a moment before my family falls apart

Rowan pelling

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