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Calais and St Pierre-lès-Calais census records

The census (French: recensement) record documents for the Pas-de-Calais Département are held and conserved by the Pas-de-Calais France archives department. They are available to view in the census section of the Pas-de-Calais Archives website

The Calais censuses are recorded separately for the two Communes of Calais and St Pierre-lès-Calais.

It is these records that were searched for the information noted in the schedules on this page, which show the families of the Lacemakers of Calais then living in the Communes of Calais and St Pierre-lès-Calais.

We hope that the information is exhaustive but if you find errors, please contact us.

Whose name is in the censuses?

This index lists the surnames of the men, women and children who made the journey to the Australian colonies in the 1848/9 migration and whose names appear in one or more of the Calais and St Pierre-lès-Calais censuses.

Is your LOC family name in the index

Calais Census Schedules

St Pierre-lès-Calais Census Schedules

1848 Migration

Why look at the 1851 census?

Who stayed behind in St Pierre-lès-Calais?

In 1848 when the turmoil closed the lace factories and workshops, most lacemakers in Calais and St Pierre had no work and little money. Those who were “foreigners” had a difficult choice to make with few options – return to their home towns, try somewhere else or stay and hope that conditions improved. Often families chose to stay together no matter which choice they decided on. However, when family members made different choices the families fragmented.


Just 3 years later, on 15 April 1851 the census enumerators were in the Calais and St Pierre-lès-Calais streets again. Of the more than eleven thousand people living in the Commune of St Pierre-lès-Calais, there were hundreds if not a few thousand étrangers [foreigners]. Some of these people had never left while others had returned when the lace factories reopened. One such family was that of George Swift, his wife and two sons. A daughter was also noted living with her husband and their 6 children. The Swift family were one of many that had split in 1848 even though they had lived in St Pierre-lès-Calais for more than 20 years. Another daughter had migrated to New South Wales when her husband and all of his family had decided to leave France. There were many such families where family members made different choices.


The 1851 census schedule lists many foreigners living in St Pierre-lès-Calais including Irish, Scots, Italians, Belgians, Prussians and even a few Americans. However, by far the largest group were the Anglaises or English.


The schedule lists names of people with the same names as those of the lacemakers who migrated to the Australian colonies in 1848 and the few years after. Some of the people scheduled are related to those migrants.

Did all members of your lacemaker family leave in 1848? Perhaps some are in the 1851 schedule?

Communes and sections

The Département of Pas-de-Calais was subdivided into Arrondissements, Cantons and Communes. In the 19th century, there were two communes covering the area around Calais and St Pierre-lès-Calais and these were not combined until 1885.


The Commune of Calais included the town within the fortified walls and the Courgain fishing community between the walls and the boat harbour. The Commune of Calais was not further divided.

The Commune of St Pierre-lès-Calais, which included the village where most of the lacemakers lived, was divided into 7 administrative districts called sections with each given a letter designation and a name. The census forms are scheduled according to these sections. The section locations within the Commune can be found on the maps.

The translations in the brackets are the literal ones, while generally, the names are geographical descriptions of the district's location and/or its characteristics.

Section A - Petit Courgain [Little Courgain]

Located between the Channel coast and the Canal de Marck to the east of Calais and the village of St Pierre, Petit Courgain was initially a small cluster of houses nestled up against the ramparts beyond the Courgain fishing village. The land was open with sand dunes along the beach and arable land behind where market gardens and grain crops were grown. Over time, farm buildings appeared and the censuses for this section show that many of the residents were jardiniers [gardeners] or journaliers [day labourers].

Section B - Hautes Communes [High or Upper Districts]

Inland of the market gardens, this section was also dotted with small farms.

Section C - Beau Marais [Beautiful Marsh]

Further inland again, this section was indeed marshy and by the early 19th century, was criss-crossed with channels and canals to drain the land and provide arable land for crop and animal production.

Section D - Basses Communes [Lower Districts]

Similar to but west of the Beau Marais section, this section was also drained and farmed. The new railway that opened in 1848 was built on an elevated embankment above the swampy land while along the road to Boulogne were windmills and a few of the new streets as St Pierre expanded south.

Section E - Vivier [Fish Farm or breeding area]

West of the canal called La Rivière Neuve, this section was mostly open with few houses but with numerous drains and canals spread over the land. In the 17th and 18th centuries this low-lying area had been engineered to flood with sea water controlled by sluice gates at the port and within Fort Nieulay. The flooded ground, together with outposts in the dunes along the coast such as Fort Lapin, was intended to slow or stop an enemy attacking the walled town from the west.

Section F - Quartre Coins [Four Corners]

Originally called "the end of the dykes", the Four Corners district was a sea-level marsh bounded by the canal that ran on the outside of and to the south of the fortified wall of Calais, the "New River" canal, and the two main roads rue Grande and route de Boulogne. This district is rectangular in shape and so has four corners.

Section G - Carré [Square]

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