The 1921 census asked for ‘Road, Street, &c. and No. or name of House.’ Sadly however, not everyone in 1921 lived in a conventional house – in fact, an entry from Sanquhar tells the story of a family of seven who did not have a roof over their heads.

James White, his wife Elizabeth and their five children John (9), Elizabeth (8), Richard (6), Mary (3) and William, just one year old, are recorded as living on the Glasgow to Carlisle Rd, at 1 am, South of Sanquhar.

The family have not been able to say where they were from but their nationality was recorded as “English”. James is recorded as an out of work general labourer.

Was James travelling through the country looking for work? Were the family going to Scotland to visit relatives? We may never know why this family are recorded here in 1921 unless they are in your family tree, so please get in touch if you can add to this story.

Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland, 1921 Census 848/5, page 3. The purple pen marks on this page record the gradual collating of the census data.

The entry before the White family shows another three people who were not living in a house on census day. Three out of work general labourers were enumerated at 12 midnight in a shed at Ryehill Farm.

As well as travelling to find work, many seasonal workers would live in temporary housing. This farm, Low Clanyard in Kirkmaiden, needed accommodation for a gang of potato diggers. The shed housed 20 Potato Pickers and one foreman. The youngest was 16 and the oldest 56.

Crown copyright, National Records of Scotland, 1921 Census 890/5, page 6.

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