Easy As Pulling Teeth
Extracting Dentists from the 1881 Census CD-ROMs
Drilling into data which the LDS doesn't let you search for

A version of this article first appeared in the January/February 2000 issue of Family Chronicle Magazine

By Mark Howells

Important Update Information Regarding This Article

December 1, 2000

The LDS Church has now made available their Resource File Viewer, version 3.0. This software product allows you to search the 1881 British Census discs and other LDS data products in the same manner as described below using Folio Views. The "Advanced Queries" feature of Resource File Viewer 3.0 allows for all word searches for any data contained on the data discs.

The 1881 British Census was sold with an older version of the Resource File Viewer - Version 2.0.

The advantage of the Resource File Viewer version 3.0 over Folio Views is one of cost. Resource File Viewer costs US$6.50 compared to US$149.00 for Folio Views.

When opening the 1881 Census data discs using Resource File Viewer 3.0, the "Advanced Queries" is found under the "Search" menu and then under "Neighbors - Advanced Queries".

Resource File Viewer, version 3.0 also comes as part of the LDS' Mormon Immigration Index CD-ROM product and the Western Europe Vital Records CD-ROM product. So one option is to buy one of the above products and use the accompying copy of the Resource File Viewer 3.0 you receive with the data discs to search the 1881 British Census discs. Note that the price of the Mormon Immigration Index is slightly less than purchasing the Resource File Viewer 3.0 on its own.

The Resource File Viewer 3.0 may be purchased online from the LDS Church or from your nearest LDS Distribution Center. Visit the NFHS Internet Branch's web page on the 1851 British Census for Distribution Center location and contact information for various countries around the world.

A big thank you to Steve Archer of Archer Software for sharing the news of this new feature in the Resource File Viewer. And of course, a HUGE thank you to the LDS Church's Family History Department for continuing to improve the tools they so graciously share with us.

Not satisfied with the limitations of the search capabilities of the 1881 British Census CD-ROM set, the author applied an alternative search tool to the discs and surmounted the limitations of the native search capabilities.

In the Waiting Room Where This Started

When I had determined that I had a Victorian dentist as an ancestor, I was very excited. This 3rd great grandfather was the first "professional man" in my family tree and I had grand visions of finding out more about his career from the marbled halls of some academic or professional archive. The truth of the matter was quite different see the November, 1997 issue of Family Tree Magazine, page 30 for an article regarding my research. What I discovered was that while my dental ancestor may have taken an apprenticeship with another dentist to learn the trade, at that time the 1840s to the 1870s there was no formal education nor any professional certification or licensing required to be a dental practitioner. My 3rd great grandfather had a practice in Norwich, Norfolk but also traveled around the county to the major towns as an itinerant dentist. This "have pliers, will travel" aspect of his career was fascinating but I was still searching for more information about my dentist's career.

When I know the occupations of my ancestors, I try to read up on what the occupation entailed. In the case of my dental forebear, the best books on the history of dentistry in the United Kingdom have been authored by Christine Hillam of the University of Liverpool's Dental History Research Unit. I was able to strike up an e-mail correspondence with this expert on British dental history and, while asking for information on how to further research my dental ancestor, I was also trying to determine how I might assist this historian in her ongoing research into the profession.

Genealogists are rarely considered to be "serious" researchers by academic historians. Our methods and standards of evidence are simply not rigorous enough and our scope of interests (our own families) are too narrow to be of much assistance to historians. However, because I had found Christine Hillam's books to be so useful in understanding my 3rd great grandfather's dental career, I wanted to try to "give something back" to Dr. Hillam.

At about this time, the 1851 British Census CD-ROM for the counties of Norfolk, Devon, and Warwickshire had just been made available from the Family History Department of the LDS Church. I told Dr. Hillam about this resource and mentioned that it allowed the transcribed census returns for the three counties to be searched by occupation see Figure 1.

Household Search Window for the 1851 British Census CD-ROM including Occupation search field.

Figure 1: Household Search Window for the 1851 British Census CD-ROM including Occupation search field.

Further, the 1851 British Census CD-ROM includes a Query function under Search, Query. This function allows for searches on any keyword such as dentist see Figure 2. Inclusion of this feature made searching for any element of data on the entire disc very simple. Simple boolean commands such as OR, AND, or NOT can be used to obtain different combinations of results from keyword searches.

Search, Query Window for the 1851 British Census CD-ROM.

Figure 2: Search, Query Window for the 1851 British Census CD-ROM.

At US$5.00 per copy, the 1851 British Census CD-ROM made an ideal "thank you" gift and I sent one to Dr. Hillam along with some notes on how to easily search for all the dentists, dental surgeons, etc. listed in the census for the three counties covered. I also mentioned that the 1881 British Census on CD-ROM was expected out in the near future (and now available). As the 1881 project covered the entire UK, I extolled its potential usefulness for a dental historian. Imagine being able to extract all the self-described dentist in the entire UK from 1881, complete with PRO reference numbers to research them further on the actual census. That was the point at which I placed my foot firmly in my mouth a dentists' area of special interest!

In the Dentist's Chair Don't Make Promises You Can't Keep

At the 1999 GenTech Conference in Salt Lake City last January, I was fortunate enough to view a demonstration of the not-yet-released 1881 Census on CD-ROM. The employees of the Family History Department involved with the 1881 Census project showed me what the product could do and I immediately noticed that there was no provision for searching by occupation!

1881 British Census  Individual Search Window showing no native ability to search by Occupation.

Figure 3: 1881 British Census Individual Search Window showing no native ability to search by Occupation.

The 1881 British Census search capabilities were limited to searching by given name, last name, birth year, birthplace, and census place only see Figure 3. I suggested searching by Occupation field as an enhancement and was told that they had been forced to make hard decisions about what fields on the 1881 CD-ROM discs would be searchable. The Occupation field did not make the cut. Nor had the Family History Department included the Search, Query function available on the 1851 product. I was crestfallen. I had previously told Dr. Hillam that the 1881 Census CD-ROMs would be as useful as the 1851 Census CD-ROM. This was based on the assumption that they could be searched in a like manner. I realized that this would not be the case. How could I search for all the dentists in the UK if the Occupation field was not searchable?

I was not satisfied with a "can't be done" answer regarding searching the Occupation field on the 1881 Census CD-ROM discs. The Occupation field was clearly included on the discs as a detailed view of the results of an individual search clearly shows see Figure 4.

1881 British Census  - Lancashire Disc 1  A Detailed View of an Individual Search with the Occupation field shown.

Figure 4: 1881 British Census - Lancashire Disc 1 A Detailed View of an Individual Search with the Occupation field shown.

The Occupation field was there, so there must be a way to search on it. A few more inquiries of the Family History Department provided some possible options.

Drill, Fill, & Bill Getting To The Data

The Family History Department told me that they used the Folio suite of products to provide the data format and the search capabilities on their CD-ROM products. Folio provides various database development and search tools and licenses their products to database developers such as the Family History Department for re-sale to consumers. In the case of the Family History Department, their Family History Resource File Viewer used to view their CD-ROMs (not just the 1881 British Census) is a licensed end-user version of Folio's complete search tool called Folio Views 4.2. Folio Views 4.2 retails for US$149.00 and is available from NextPage partner retailers in North America, Europe, and beyond. (Note that the product is also available in the United Kingdom from TWR Computing, S&N Genealogy Supplies, or Catalyst Electronic Publishing for approximately 109.) The Family History Department recommended that this full-featured search tool would allow me to search the 1881 British Census on any data field I wished including the Occupation field.

I ordered the Folio Views software and informed Dr. Hillam of the lack of a native search capability for Occupation field information within the 1881 Census product. I promised that I would attempt to find a method to search the 1881 CD-ROM set for all the dentists in the UK as transcribed and would provide her with a listing of their census information. Embolden by my promise, I received the Folio Views software and immediately put it aside for four months.

I approached the prospect of attempting to use Folio Views on the 1881 CD-ROMs with some trepidation. In my professional career, I am not known as a "database guy". Frankly, I find database queries boring and although I am schooled in the use of Access, DB2, and other database products, I avoid using them somewhat like people avoid the dentist's chair. Would I have to define the database structure used by the 1881 Census to the search tool? Would I have to be cognizant of field lengths? Was I going to have to get into the dirty details of the data in order to find what I wanted? I wasn't very thrilled at the prospects and thus I wasn't in any hurry to apply Folio Views to the 1881 Census.

Easy As Pulling Teeth Using Folio Views

Once I worked up the courage to install Folio Views, I was pleasantly surprised at every turn. It installed rapidly in under 5 minutes. The interface was intuitive to any Windows user and in another 15 minutes, I was searching for dentists on each individual disc in the CD-ROM set. I should have known that since the Family History Department developed their products using Folio's tools, Folio Views would be easily adapted to viewing the data on the Census discs. I was still surprised at how effortless the entire process was.

As expected, you first must inform Folio Views of where the data you wish to search is located. In the case of the 1881 Census, it is on the 16 individual discs which comprise the Census portion of the set (exclusive of the National Index).

Folio Views 4.2 File, Open Window  Showing the contents to the 1881 British Census - Lancashire Disc 1.

Figure 5: Folio Views 4.2 File, Open Window Showing the contents to the 1881 British Census - Lancashire Disc 1.

Folio views recognized the files with the suffix .nfo as what it calls "infobases". There are four such files on each of the Census discs. It is the files using the naming pattern nnndtlaz.nfo which are the infobases holding the transcribed census detail see Figure 5.

After selecting the correct file, Folio views displays the data on the disc very much like the Family History Resource Viewer provided with the 1881 Census does see Figure 6.

Folio Views 4.2  Initial Display Window of 1881 Census detail.

Figure 6: Folio Views 4.2 Initial Display Window of 1881 Census detail.

The detailed census data is shown "as enumerated" and shows a total of 764,853 records on this single disc. Each record represents an enumerated household. Surprisingly, Relationship to Head of Household and Occupation information is not shown. These turn out to be "hidden" fields which can be revealed using View, show Hidden fields in Folio Views. This was an inexplicable design decision on the part of the Family History Department. As anyone familiar with the 1881 Census set knows, the user must choose to turn on View, Details in order to see the full information from the transcribed record. Why information such as this would be hidden from genealogical researchers is a mystery.

After a first look at the data using Folio Views, I was ready to begin searching for dentists. The Search, Advanced Query is quickly locatable from the menu bar. Comparison of the 1851 CD-ROM's Search, Query seen in Figure 2 and the Folio Views' Search, Advanced Query seen in Figure 7 shows that they are nearly identical. It is, in fact, the same software. The Advanced Query works with simple boolean commands just as the 1851 Query function does. Now I wanted to keep my search simple. I merely wanted all records containing any use of the word "dent". This would cover all possible forms of dentist, dental, dentist's assistant, teacher of dentistry, etc. The query for this is "dent*" using the asterisk as a all-inclusive wild card. Without even conducting the full search, Folio Views told me that I would get 4,752 records in this case households on the census - as a result of this search see Figure 7.

Folio Views 4.2  Advanced Query Window showing potential results for

Figure 7: Folio Views 4.2 Advanced Query Window showing potential results for "dent*".

After some head scratching, I realized that this would include records which contained the common surname Dent and the place name Denton along with other non-dental related results. I modified the original query to "dent* not dent not denton" which produced a much more manageable result of 722 records see Figure 8.

Figure 8:  Folio Views 4.2  Advanced Query Window showing potential results for

Figure 8: Folio Views 4.2 Advanced Query Window showing potential results for "dent* not dent not denton".

This was the search I decided to actually run. Folio Views is extremely flexible and powerful in its search capabilities and a more elegant query could, no doubt, be formulated for this purpose. But after less than an hour with the product, the results of this search were suitable to my needs.

Folio Views 4.2  Detailed Query Results Window from the 1881 Census  Lancashire Disc 1.

Figure 9: Folio Views 4.2 Detailed Query Results Window from the 1881 Census Lancashire Disc 1.

I did decide to change the view presented of the results of the query by using View, Records with Hits so that the detailed results returned only included records which matched my search criteria. Now I was getting some interesting results. Although there was the occasional Dentith or Dentry surnames, these could easily be filtered out by a more refined query. One of the returned records which immediately caught my eye disproved the common conception of Victorian dentistry as a "man's profession". The eighth record returned by the query shows that Louisa Newman is practicing dentistry in Liverpool and that her son is following in his widowed mother's footsteps see Figure 9.

A quick copy and paste into a plain text document put the results of this search into a simple format from which Dr. Hillam could easily extract any information of interest. She could print out the information, convert it into a database of her own liking, or do whatever she wished with the information. Repeating this process on all of the16 detailed census discs which comprise the 1881 British Census soon produced a listing of all dentists, dentists assistants, dental surgeons, etc. shown on the 1881 Census. Thus was I able to fulfill my promise to the dental historian. Below they are broken down by the regional divisions of the 1881 Census CD-ROM set:

Disc(s)Dentists / Total Number of Households
London-Middlesex1,134 / 639,964
Lancashire722 / 764,853
York492 / 663,845
London-West451 / 528,639
Southwestern373 / 567,674
London-East372 / 533,992
West Midlands286 / 521,159
Scottish Lowlands270 / 469,830
East Midlands269 / 431,264
East Anglia242 / 464,123
Northern Borders195 / 383,511
(excluding Dents Hole, Northumberland)
Wales126 / 352,591
Scottish Highlands93 / 364,408
Total5,025 / 6,718,853

Slightly over 5,000 dental practitioners out of 6.7 million households. Bear in mind that the above query results include the occasional Dentry surname, etc. However, the incidence of these non-dental results is low enough that the distribution of dentistry-related records can be seen by region. The results are unsurprising high concentrations of dentists in the largest urbanized areas of the time and low numbers of dentists in the predominately rural areas.

Let's Look at the X-Rays - What Else Can Be Searched For?

Extra information which can not be searched using the native search facility of the 1881 Census CD-ROM set but can be searched using Folio Views 4.2 includes:

There are other possibilities, of course. Using Folio Views 4.2, you can determine exactly how many "imbeciles" or "idiots" (to use those unfortunate Victorian terms for mentally-handicapped persons) were living in any village, parish, town, county, or region of the United Kingdom in 1881. Perhaps you're acquainted with some of their descendants? Would you think to look for your school teacher ancestor under the occupation "Schulmistriss"? There are three recorded as such in Blackburn. Folio Views allows you to view a list of all the words on the entire data disc in order to find such possible mis-spellings. This helps in determining surname variants introduced when the householder filled out the census form, when the census enumerator transcribed the form into their book, or when the data entry operator mis-keyed the surname for inclusion on the CD-ROM.

For the genealogist, the increased search power of Folio Views over the native 1881 Census search facility will be most useful in the case where all that is known is a relatively common surname plus a trade or occupation. In the prior example of a female dentist, by combining the search for the Newman family (for which there are 290 records on the Lancashire disc including 6 Louisa Newmans) with their profession of dentist (for which there are 514 records), the single Newman family of dentists in Lancashire is quickly identified by Folio Views.

Your Next Appointment Other Uses of Folio Views

The 1881 Census CD-ROM set was created by the Family History Department with genealogists in mind. Its value to local historians and other social scientists with an eye on the past was necessarily limited by the native search capabilities included in the product. With Folio Views, not only can these specialists obtain valuable research results from the 1881 Census, but family historians can also extend their reach into the data.

Folio Views 4.2 can be used to easily extract data from other Family History Department products such as the Vital Records Index-British Isles and the Vital Records Index-North America, among others. Irregardless of what search capabilities are provided with these products, Folio Views will allow for additional and more complex query results.

With the Family History Department's continued use of the Folio suite of database tools and the expected release of the 1880 US Census on CD-ROM, those of us with US research may look forward to applying Folio Views to the 1880 Census discs as well. No longer limited by the search tool which comes with the data, users of Folio Views will be able to search for any combination of data elements they choose. I wonder how many dentists were in Poughkepsie in 1880?

Additional information on Folio Views products, including access to a newsgroup specifically for users of Folio Views, may be found at NFOWEB Folio Support.


Hillam, Christine, Brass Plate and Brazen Impudence - Dental Practice in the Provinces 1755-1855, Liverpool University Press , 1991. ISBN 0-85323-117-6

Hillam, Christine, editor, The Roots of Dentistry, The British Dental Association, 1990. ISBN 0-904588-25-4.

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Easy As Pulling Teeth - Extracting Dentists from the 1881 Census CD-ROMs

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Updated March 24, 2001

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