Google Answers Logo
View Question
Q: 1841 census England ( No Answer,   16 Comments )
Subject: 1841 census England
Category: Family and Home > Families
Asked by: sherman14-ga
List Price: $2.00
Posted: 30 May 2006 06:55 PDT
Expires: 29 Jun 2006 06:55 PDT
Question ID: 733624
I study my family genealogy.Several female ancestors in the census of
1841 have their employment listed as "lace rummagers".They lived in
south Nottinghamshire, where lace was made,but what did a "rummager"
do? At that time, would it be hand-made lace or factory made please?
There is no answer at this time.

Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: probonopublico-ga on 30 May 2006 08:17 PDT
'Rummaging' is a well known expression where I came from - Lancashire.

It means having a good look for something.

Maybe they were inspectors?

(Only guessing).
Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: myoarin-ga on 30 May 2006 10:20 PDT
Not just well known in Lancashire, Bryan.

Also just guessing, I expect that the females sold lace.  I imagine
that the small shops that sold lace back then looked very much like
the stalls with textiles on Portobello road; either the owner or the
customer must rummage to find anything.

The lace could well have been early machine lace, as you can see by
scrolling down this site:
Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: pinkfreud-ga on 30 May 2006 10:30 PDT
One of the definitions of 'rummage' in the Oxford English Dictionary
is "to scrutinize, examine minutely, investigate." I think
probonopublico's guess of "inspectors" is a good one.
Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: frde-ga on 31 May 2006 06:15 PDT
Probono is being sarcastic
- a 'rummage' is what Customs Officers do

My Great Grandmother used to make lace, we have some of it somewhere.
She died well before the 1930's
Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: probonopublico-ga on 31 May 2006 07:56 PDT

There was absolutely no sarcasm from me.

I am astonished that you thought that you had detected any.
Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: myoarin-ga on 31 May 2006 15:29 PDT
If Probono and Pinkfreud are on the right track  - lace inspectors - 
for machine made lace, there would indeed have been a need for people
to inspect the goods prior to marketing, just as checkers control
ready-made clothing and other products these days.
Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: thursdaylast23-ga on 02 Jun 2006 15:39 PDT
A Mr. H. T. Miller begins his spiritual lesson entitled "Rummagers" as
follows, thus adding weight to the Inspection Theory of Rummagers
previously suggested:

"These men form part of the customs staff in all ports where
contraband goods come in. They are expert men. They look behind
innocent looking cornices in the cabin fixings, they are acquainted
with double backs to the steward's pantry, and false bottoms in the
traveler's trunks. Sometimes they miss the prize in the cabin, the
forecastle, the coal bunker, or stern-sheets of the jolly boat. To
rummage is to turn over, and search out and bring to light."

The article goes on to make an analogy between the role of these
"rummagers" and the function or behavior of "the Word," angels, and

H T MILLER. New York Observer and Chronicle (1833-1912). New York: Jan
14, 1897.Vol.75, Iss. 2;  pg. 45, 2 pgs  [Source: The American
Periodicals Series Online, 1740-1900]
Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: pafalafa-ga on 02 Jun 2006 16:25 PDT
I'm going to have to take a slightly different tact than my colleagues, above.

In looking through several historical databases, I didn't find any
mentions of 'lace rummager', but did find a few for the more general
term, 'rummager'.  It is almost used in a security sense...a rummager
is on the lookout for stolen goods.

At the London docks, rummagers searched incoming cargo to make sure
nothing was stashed away in hidden holds.  Since lace is so easily
concealed, I can well imagine a lace rummager as someone on the
lookout for stolen lace at a factory where the lace is being made. 
Since lacemakers were generally women, it stands to reason that the
lace rummager would also be a woman.

I can't confirm this, but I'm pretty confident that this is the
meaning of the term.

Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: thursdaylast23-ga on 02 Jun 2006 18:01 PDT
As to the question of handmade or machine-made lace, you might find
interesting this information on the trials of the man who seems
responsible for introducing machines to the lace-making industry. It
does not categorically answer your question about what kind of
lace-making your ancestors may have been doing, but does give a sense
of when machines entered the picture. The excerpt if from the
Nottingham website, found on a page called "Nottinghamshire: History
and Archaeology":

Heathcote Street was first so called in 1874, and its name
commemorates the founder of the machine-made lace trade. John
Heathcote was born at Duffield in 1783, and at an early age migrated
to Hathern, where he was educated at the village school. His father
became blind, and Heathcote's early days were marked by poverty. He
was apprenticed to a stockinger called William Shepherd, and became
thoroughly conversant with the mechanics of the stocking frame. While
at Hathern he watched a Northamptonshire woman making lace on a
pillow, and determined to reproduce her movements by machinery. His
next move was to Nottingham, where he found employment with Leonard
Elliott, whose workshop was between Broad Street and what we call
Heathcote Street. Being an exceedingly skilled mechanic he was soon
able to buy the business, and his old idea of making lace by machinery
once more occupied his attention. Eventually he sold his Nottingham
business and entered into partnership with his brother-in-law Samuel
Caldwell, at Hathern. At last, in 1809 he produced the bobbin lace
machine, and shortly afterwards set up in business as a lace
manufacturer at Loughborough, in partnership with a Mr. Boden. But his
troubles were not over, for in 1816 the ignorant mob, fearing that his
invention would take away their livelihood, attacked his premises and
wrecked thirty-seven lace machines. This so exasperated Heathcote that
he decided to move his industry as far away from his enemies as
possible, and so he established new works at Tiverton, which were the
foundation of the machine-made lace trade in that part of the country.
Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: probonopublico-ga on 02 Jun 2006 21:53 PDT
Following the excellent comments by Paf and thursdaylast23-ga, I am
now of the opinion that 'lace rummagers' were probably security staff.

However, according to my diary, thursday last was not the 23rd. 

Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: answerfinder-ga on 03 Jun 2006 03:19 PDT
This is from the Old Bailey transcripts - 1800.

?STEVENSON sworn. - I am a rummager belonging to the East-India
Company; I recollect the last witness coming with a cart to
Summer's-quay, with some kegs of paint, they were unloaded in my
presence; I saw the kegs upon the quay, and it was my duty to take
care of them, and see there was nothing plundered; they were to be
carried on board the Carnatic;?

But if it was security, etc., would several females be employed?

Could it be something to do with the manufacturing process and
recovering discarded lace or material and recycling it? Rummager as in
looking for something. I know nothing of the lace making process.

Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: pafalafa-ga on 03 Jun 2006 04:00 PDT

Funny you should mention the Old Bailey site.  I just made use of it
myself on the latest web-owls post:

It's a great resource!  I love reading the actual trial transcripts.

Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: thursdaylast23-ga on 03 Jun 2006 12:07 PDT
Here is an additional comment made on a genealogical forum re:
"rummager" as a surname. I don't know the credibility of the original
source, but the explanation could possibly fit the context of the Old
Bailey citation:

"I do have a Family Name Origin I found in South Australia. It says
that the name Rumming was of the occupational group of surnames
meaning 'the rummager', which is a sailor who stowed away luggage in
the hold of vessels. It says that the earliest name on record appears
to be Robert Rommongoure, Who was recorded During the reign of Richard
II (1377-1399)."

Although I browsed a number of lists of occupations posted on various
genealogy sites, neither "lace rummager" nor "rummager" appeared on
any of them, including the most extensive one here:

I do recall that a friend whose hobby is genealogy recently pointed
out that the information appearing on census records was what the
census taker heard, not necessarily what the person giving the
information actually said. So there is an outside possibility that the
response to the question of occupation was "lace r___", and the census
taker, familiar with the term "rummager" from elsewhere, wrote that
word down.

In the case that nothing definitive can be determined here, you might
try contacting the Nottinghamshire Family History Society and ask if
they might be able to provide more enlightenment.

For any of you who might want to further explore various uses of the
word "rummage" over the last couple centuries, here are the results
returned from a search of the National Archives (warning: not in
chronological order). One intriguing tidbit is an excerpt from a
letter written by one Rev. J. C. Hill describing his travels in
Germany in July, 1821. In spite of his status as clergy role model, he
seems to have no compunction about seeking to escape government
inspection: "We set out early tomorrow for Chyle a league from
Strasberg as we should certainly have out baggage rummaged and perhaps
be made to pay duty for our carriage if we took it into the town...."
Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: roosevelt1904-ga on 03 Jun 2006 17:06 PDT
As thursdaylast23 noted, the best site for English occcupations is by
far:  As mentioned, it does
not list "lace rummager" - but curiously, I did find "lace runner".
Which is listed as a young worker who embroiders lace.  Perhaps the
census taker wrote down what he thought he heard or was the writing
clear in showing "rummager".  Just a thought.
Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: probonopublico-ga on 03 Jun 2006 23:01 PDT
This is a really great Question as it has produced a stack of great
comments. (Unusually on this occasion, I am not referring to my own.)

The Old Bailey transcripts, for example! (I am still wondering how
Paf, an American no less, discovered these; and whether Answerfinder
gave evidence in any of the cases. My guess is that they don't go back
far enough for that but it might be worth checking.)

And now roosevelt1904-ga (Another American?) has thrown a spanner in
the works by suggesting that the Census Taker might have mis-heard. Or
maybe mis-wrote. Some of the writings are difficult to read.

Subject: Re: 1841 census England
From: answerfinder-ga on 04 Jun 2006 00:31 PDT
Very good point by thursdaylast23-ga. The 1841 was the first census
where occupations were listed. All the census are littered with
mistakes including occupation descriptions, and I should add, later
mistakes made in transcriptions by genealogists. It may be interesting
to see if the description is used in later census returns for the same
people, or in that same area.

Bryan, I?m not quite one of the original Bow Street Runners, but what
I do find interesting is looking through the Times archive where I can
see my Victorian predecessors who had my old shoulder number from
Marylebone Lane giving evidence in court, etc.

Paf, yes it?s a great resource and contains some interesting, and
sometimes, very sad tales.


Important Disclaimer: Answers and comments provided on Google Answers are general information, and are not intended to substitute for informed professional medical, psychiatric, psychological, tax, legal, investment, accounting, or other professional advice. Google does not endorse, and expressly disclaims liability for any product, manufacturer, distributor, service or service provider mentioned or any opinion expressed in answers or comments. Please read carefully the Google Answers Terms of Service.

If you feel that you have found inappropriate content, please let us know by emailing us at with the question ID listed above. Thank you.
Search Google Answers for
Google Answers  

Google Home - Answers FAQ - Terms of Service - Privacy Policy