Sometimes people are really hard to find in a census, they might not even be there at all, while a small number are recorded twice. A tweet by Paul Chiddicks of Chiddicks Family Tree about double recording reminded me that I’d come across an example. When I looked at the detail it turned out to be a good deal more complicated than a straightforward duplicate entry.

Alexandrina and Alexina

My example is from the 1871 Census in Stromness, Orkney, Scotland.

The first person was Alexandrina Manson, 17, born Orkney, Longhope. She was recorded in “in a close off the street”. (A close is a small lane and the street here is the main street running through Stromness.)

Alexandrina Manson, 1871 Census, Stromness, Orkney. 030/ 4/ 5, ScotlandsPeople.

She was the daughter of George Manson, 38, seaman, and head of the household. Also there were his wife Ann Manson, 46, his sons Andrew, 14, and James, 8, all born Orkney, Longhope, and a daughter Catherine, 6, born in Orkney, Stromness.1Census 1871 Scotland. Stromess, Orkney. MANSON, Alexandrina. 030/ 4/ 5. https:www/

A few minutes’ walk away, in Victoria Street, Stromness, was Alexina Taylor, 17, a domestic servant, born Longhope.

Alexina Taylor, 1871 Census, Stromness, Orkney. 030/ 6/ 13 ScotlandsPeople.

She was described as a niece of the head of household, 24 year old Isabella Stout, a Sloop Master’s wife, also born Longhope. The third inhabitant on census night, 2 April 1871, was Isabella’s son, James, aged one, born Stromness, Orkney.2 Census 1871 Scotland. Stromness, Orkney.  030/ 6/ 13.

Same age, same birthplace but two different names, nothing remarkable there and nothing to suggest this could be the same person. But remember that census information is not always 100% reliable. So let’s check the facts.

Who were they?

Aged 17 on 2 April 1871, census night, Alexandrina and Alexina would have been born around 1853 or 1854 depending on when their birthdays were. There is only one matching baptism in the parish of Walls in those years: “Alexandrina Sutherland Taylor Stout, natural daughter of Anne [sic] Stout residing at Brims, born 5th November 1853 and baptised 3rd July 1854”.3Baptisms (OPR) Scotland. Walls, Orkney. 032/ 40 161 “Natural” means that Anne Stout was not married to the father of her child. As she later married George Manson in 1858 he was Alexandrina’s step-father and not her father.4Marriages (CR) Scotland. Walls, Orkney. 11 February 1858. 032/ 1. Could he have been her actual father? Where a child was born outside marriage, it is always worth checking out the Kirk Session minutes.

Kirk Session Minutes

Between November 1853 and May 1854, the Walls minutes contain much detail on the case of Anne Stout and James Taylor, a widowed shoemaker, who both lived in Brims. From the outset Anne claimed that James was the father of her child while, predictably perhaps, he denied this, naming another Brims resident as the possible father. George Manson did not figure at all in the case.

The testimony of witnesses was not wholly satisfactory and it was all rather inconclusive. Finally the Session rebuked Anne yet again before absolving her. A few weeks later she was admitted as a new communicant of the church and her daughter was baptised.5Parish of Walls. Kirk Session Minutes. November 1853-June 1854. CH2/1105/1. National Records of Scotland, Edinburgh (and now online at

I created an index to the Walls Kirk Session minutes some years ago and one volume of the actual minutes is now online at ScotlandsPeople.

Whatever the truth, the Stout family certainly believed that James Taylor was the child’s father with Alexandrina’s middle name, Taylor, providing another clue. Such use of a middle name to indicate the father was fairly common in these circumstances. (Sutherland seems to be a name that the family used more generally.) In the 1861 Census she was simply Alexanderina Taylor, in the same household as her uncle Sutherland Stout and his mother (her grandmother) Isabella, in Brims.6Census 1861 Scotland. Walls, Orkney. 32/1 2/ 15.

That is the link to Alexina Taylor in Victoria Street, Stromness, in the 1871 Census for she was in fact the niece of Isabella Stout’s husband, Sutherland, not Isabella’s own niece. This is information I know through researching the wider family; firstly the household where Alexandrina was staying in the 1861 Census (above) and secondly her mother Ann and her background. If I’d taken the 1871 Census at face value there would have been several blind alleys, looking at siblings of Isabella Stout (née Smith). As for the first name, Alexina was a common shortened form of Alexandrina.

One and the same

So Alexandrina Manson and Alexina Taylor was the same person. On the Mansons’ census return she may have been called George’s daughter to save face and avoid complications. Perhaps she used the first name Alexina on a daily basis and to Isabella Stout, who grew up in the same small community of Brims, she was a Taylor not a Manson. My guess is that Alexina helped out at Sutherland and Isabella Stout’s home and happened to be there on census night while the Mansons’ was her actual home. Maybe it was a late decision to add her on the Mansons’ form for she was last on the list and out of place in order of age.

Alice – another twist

What became of Alexina or Alexandrina? Though the rest of the Manson family emigrated from Scotland to New Zealand, she remained in Scotland. In 1877 she married Thomas Muir, a photographer and fellow-Orcadian, in Leith, this time under the name Alice Taylor.7Marriages (CR) Scotland. Leith South, Midlothian. 7 September 1877. 692/2 240. She died in Dundee in 1899, again recorded as Alice.8Deaths (CR) Scotland. St Peter, Dundee. 28 September 1899. 282/1 372 In between, she appeared in two censuses, 1881 and 1891, once as Alexandrina, once as Alice! 9Census 1881 Scotland. Leith North, Midlothian. MUIR, Alexandrina SS. RD 692/1. ED 21. p. 48. [index and partial trancription]; Census 1891 Scotland. St Mary, Dundee. MUIR, Alice. RD 282/2. ED 2. p. 13. [index & partial transcription]. Both

Remember, remember…

It was not at all unusual for Alexandrinas to call themselves Alice so if you can’t find an Alice’s birth (or marriage) try Alexandrina or Alexina. I’ve had two queries this year where people could not find the birth of an Alice; both times she was Alexandrina. And if there is an unexpected family member at census time, could they have been a step-child, like Alexandrina, or an “in-law” like Alexina? In general, it is always worth researching siblings and the wider family rather than sticking strictly to the direct line. Their records can provide vital clues.

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