Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Jurisdictions and Civil Divisions in England for RootsMagic Citations

Locations are simple here in the U.S.  From smallest to largest they are town/village/city or township; county; state; and country.  When I look at U.S. census records, the forms name the kind of location (such as city, village, township; county; state) and therefore the locations are easy to decipher, clear and concise, and fit in the appropriate spaces in my RootsMagic program.

But in England?  Perhaps it's because I don't live in England that I am challenged trying to decide the order in which to place the locations on a census record.  British census records from the 1800s have spaces for these locations:  parish or township; ecclesiastical district; city or borough/municipal borough; town; village; municipal ward; parliamentary borough; hamlet; tithing district; local board or improvement commissioners district; and urban sanitary district.  Not every census year has all of these options but beginning with 1851, each year has at least five of these options, and 1871 and 1881 have spaces for eight locations.

This is the order I think the most common ones belong in, from smallest to largest.
  • Township - sub-divison of a Civil Parish
  • Civil Parish - territorial designation; lowest tier of local government
  • Borough - an administrative division
  • District - a level of sub-national division used for local government purposes
  • County - a sub-national division such as Durham, Yorkshire, Northumberland, etc.

This question of how to order/organize these locations came about because I began entering census records for some of my English ancestors in RootsMagic.  Below is a screenshot of part of the citation/source page where I will add the information from a British Census record.

Jurisdiction and Civil Division are the two categories I'm uncertain about.  Below is the information from the screen above.
Jurisdiction  - place where the census was taken
Hint behind the ?:  Monmouthshire, Wales (omit Wales if part of Census ID)
Civil Division - divisions represented
Hint behind the ?:   e.g. Bedwelty, Glammorgan Mountain Ash

I believe jurisdiction should be county and country, for example, Northumberland, England.

But Civil Divisions are less clear cut.  Are they all the locations named on a census other than county and country, or only some of the locations?  And if only some, which ones?  In what order should they be placed? 

Are these the Civil Divisions for my ancestors in the the census of England in
1841:  Wingate Grange Township, Kelloe, Easington?  (In Durham)
1851:  West Sleekburn, Morpeth?  (In Northumberland)
1861:  North Seaton, Morpeth?  (In Northumberland)
1871:  Cambois, Morpeth?  (In Northumberland)

If the census and RootsMagic had the same identifiers it would be easier to know the placement of location names.  Does the order of location names matter as long as they're all included?  Does one add the names as they appears, left to right, on the census form?

If someone from England (or anyone else) reads this post and can explain the order in which to list the locations from a British census record, I hope you will please leave a comment.  Thanks.


Copyright ©2017 Nancy Messier. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Nancy, I believed we are spoiled with our American censuses, so easy to put in town, county and state (also other identifying numbers). Not having an English ancestors during the time frames you gave, I can't help you. But I know Canada was quite confusing for me. An example for 1871:
    Province: Quebec
    District: Missisquoi
    District Number: 125
    Division: 03
    Subdistrict: Dunham
    Subdistrict Number: g

    1. We are spoiled, aren't we, Barbara, and most of us probably don't realize it. I'll figure this out, perhaps with the help of one of the British Facebook groups. Thanks for "commiserating" with me.


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