Friday, December 08, 2006

The Cornish 1841 census

In the West Briton in late May 1841, a series of articles appeared entitled "Hints respecting the new census, to be taken on Monday 7th June" The writer is not identified but the way it is phrased suggests he is not a member of the authorities. I have only quoted parts of it on the grounds of size.

1. The best mode of taking a census is by a map and a register. On the map, the situation of houses only should be marked. Every house should be numbered, and then a register of every inmate made. The commissioners have adopted the plan of a register, and arranged an expensive machinery for taking it, but the form is very imperfect. It is to be written in pencil. Ages above 15 are to be entered thus - at 29, put 25, if 34, put 30, and soon. If a person has two Christian names, only one is to be inserted. The county where born is to be recorded, but not the parish, which the Act also requires. Such a register will be of little use. At the same cost one might be taken which would ensure an accurate census, and might be useful for many purposes in a parish till the decennial enumeration of 1851. A register of this kind was prepared in 1831 for a large parish in this county, and has been of great service ever since.

8. Instructions to the registrars and Enumerators have been issued by the commissioners, together with the householder's schedule. A copy of the latter is to be left at every dwelling the week before the 7th of June. 3,600,000 copies of it have been printed. The enumerators will do well, though they have the choice of employing an agent, to distribute these schedules themselves, as they will thereby become better acquainted with the extent and condition of their respective districts.

9. No instructions have as yet been given in the Superintendent Registrars, to whom the schedules and register books are to be finally brought. There appears, however, to be no intention of forming a summary of them for each parish and union before they are transmitted to London. Persons interested in the statistics of the county should bear this in mind, and endeavour to secure a summary for the use of the public in Cornwall before the documents are all sent away. It may be that otherwise they will have to wait a twelvemonth before the results are made known. [from here, the print becomes distorted]

10. It is very desirable that each Enumerator should provide for himself a map of his own district. This cannot be a [choice]... [article then continued that circles should be drawn, and numbered to indicate 1 house with 7 persons, or 56 houses with 268 persons, maintaining the system would then include all dwellings, not just those in towns and villages.]

16. A circular has been addressed by the commissioners to the clergy, requesting their co-operation in taking the census. Though it comes late, it will, no doubt, meet with due attention. A short note on the subject appeared in the last Ecclesiastical Gazette, and from the extensive circulation of that paper many may be lead thereby to examine the plan proposed, and to aid it by their advice and direction. No time should be lost; the business should be undertaken at once, during the next week, through the medium of committees, or by giving personal assistance to the enumerators.

19. On Monday next, the 7th of June, an attempt will again be made to form a Speculum Britannice, or mirror of the inhabitants as to their condition and locality, when they arise from their slumbers on the morning of that day, to give an exact picture of the then living generation, and to perpetuate a description of it for present and future use. This will be found no easy task - it will require all the assistance which the appointed officers, the local societies, the clergy, and others can give to render it complete as a national work. The institutions at Falmouth, Truro, Tavistock, Plymouth, and elsewhere should be on the alert. A statistical view of eight miles round St. Andrew's church, Plymouth, showing, inter alia, how the population is located, as well on the water as on the land, would be a valuable present to the British Association on their meeting at that beautiful harbour in August.

20. The enumerators will do well to keep for their own use and future reference a correct copy of their register, which they need not deliver over for a week, till Monday the 14th of June. Attention should be paid to the queries at the end of the registers whilst they perambulate their districts, as it may otherwise be found difficult on their return to prepare answers to them. The clergy are to transmit the abstracts of burials from 1831 to 1840, from the parish registers to the Bishop, on Monday, 21st of June. It is recommended to preserve in each parish a summary of the return.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Transcribing for Free Census

The problems encountered by transcribers can be divided roughly into two groups. Those concerned with the mechanics of FC transcribing; layout etc. And those concerned with making sense of what is written down by the enumerators.

One of the easiest ways of dealing with the mechanics of the task, is to sit back at the end of each page and each ED and look at what you have done. Most of the fields have defaults. In some cases, fields can be blank as a default, but many must have something in them. The county of birth column for instance, Col T, must have a 3-digit code from the Chapman code entered. You cannot leave it blank. Well, you can, but it will then surface as a mistake when I reformat it for checking. If you take a long slow look at each page, you should be able to see where things are missing.

My own personal preference is to transcribe vertically. I do the personal names first, then the surnames, then work to the right, always going down the page. Finally I fill in those details required to the left of the surname. I flag things up as I go if I am uncertain; I also change the text colour to red. If I leave notes, I try to write the sort of thing I write when validating. I have mixed feelings about autofill; but I am a touch typist which makes it easy to type, rather than clicking on the autofill selection. You have to watch the autofill, checkers have complained that people are selecting it without checking it is what they really want.

There is little to be done about the enumerator's writing except hope that you will get better at reading it; or you'll reach the end of the ED and the next one will be better. You can try and improve the image by manipulating it with IrfanView or Photoshop. However, you can also edit what you have done and the fact that personal and place names are often repeated might give you a chance to take a second look at what you have done.

One thing everyone should do is ask themselves - is what I have transcribed sensible? Recently I had a piece where the address was transcribed as "1uoodfbock". Not once, but three times. The transcriber flagged it up. In fact, it was "Woodstock". How many words are there that end in "ood"? Not many.

There are also things you can use to help you sort problems out. The first is Google. Both place & personal names may be detected by Google. Then there are the census returns on line. In Cornwall, most parishes now have 4 sets of census returns online and Wiltshire will slowly build up to at least three sets per parish. There are online gazetteers and sites that list old occupations. However, if you can read what is written, then don't waste time, just type it in. I don't mind you leaving me a note and in some cases it might make it onto the database.

I can see from the notes that many people are worried by the relationships given. Sons that look as though they should be grandsons. However, that is not our problem. Our task is to get down what is written, not correct it. By the way, "son in law" had a rather different meaning in the 19th century. It might have been more correct to say "son by law", and we would say stepson.

One trap that is very easy to fall in to, is to correct the enumerator's words. We are committed to reproducing the exact words the enumerator used. If he is wrong - tough! We have a golden rule "AS IS". If you stick to that, you can't be wrong.

Remember that this is a system. Transcriber, checker, validator and post validator. Transcribers should try and combine speed with accuracy. Don't spend hours over one word; give it your best shot and move on, flagging it up if you are unhappy.

Good luck!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

This week in Cornwall

Here in Cornwall, we are always looking for new ways of doing things. We are also very conscious of the past - we are sort of moving forward into the past.

Until about 1850, there was a treadmill in Bodmin Gaol; there were other gaols in the county that also had them. Criminals would be sent there for a few weeks to while away their days turning a treadmill. Usually, this was for minor offences such as being drunk and disorderly. This was in the days of course, when you could be hung for stealing a sheep, or even worse, sent to Australia!

We have just as much disorderly behavour on our streets now as we did then, perhaps more. In 1850 there were very few people from England taking their holidays here. If any.

So, the authorities have decided to re-introduce the treadmill. It has two main advantages as a punishment. It is cheap. Criminals will live at home; have to make their own way to the treadmill and bring their own food and drink. The treadmills will be linked to banks of batteries that will provide power for the lights and for boiling the kettle for the supervisors.

In the 19th century, the treadmills were used to grind flour and this week a deal has been struck with a well known organic biscuit maker. His name is a commercial secret but think feathers..... Just imagine, not only organic, but hand-ground flour. Well, foot-ground anyway.

Of course, there might be people who get in the wheel and refuse to walk. A small amount of electrical power will get the wheel moving, when it will become very uncomfortable to refuse to walk.

In fact, I say walk, but many people will be running. The person who completes the most miles in each day will get one day knocked off their sentence! Of course, there will some sort of handicapping system so that little old men will have a chance.

The first bank of wheels will be in a well known seaside resort and it is hoped that the building will incorporate a viewing gallery, entry to which will incur a small charge.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

NWOCP Newsletter No 3

Hello Folks

I have been a little remiss with these newsletters just lately. Partly summer visitors, partly computer problems (self inflicted) and partly biting off more than I could chew.

However, things are rolling along and we have recruited several new people, including one this morning. Some people have completed their task and left; others have dropped out for various reasons.

1861. We have 22 pieces to do; 4 are online; 2 are being checked; another 4 are waiting for a checker to appear and the rest are with transcribers.

1871. 32 pieces to do; 6 online; 7 being checked; another 5 transcribed and waiting for a checker; the rest are all with transcribers.

1841. 12 Hundreds to do. All are being worked on and 5 have some parishes complete and online. The 1841 is being done and uploaded by parish. One Hundred is nearly finished, when I shall stitch the parishes together and upload it to Free Census.

1891. 4 pieces online; one being transcribed. There is another piece partly transcribed. The transcribers for this were an Australian couple who have worked for me on the Warwickshire project for six years. Dick was diagnosed with cancer and died in less than two months. A real blow to me, even though I had never met him.

Don't forget to visit my blog on now and again. Although it is called Cornish Census Returns, much of it is equally applicable to our project. This will be posted on it this morning.

And of course, you could check out our own web site - have a gloat!

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your support. Keep them coming!


Organiser, Nth Wilts Online Census Project

Sunday, November 05, 2006

British early census returns

The arrangements for the taking of a decennial census were set out in a Parliamentary act in 1800, but there had been discussions on the necessity of taking a census for many years. At the time of the first census, in 1801, the country was at war. We had had several bad harvests and maritime conditions were unstable. Many of the agricultural workers were in the Army or at sea. The government needed to find out how many people lived in Britain, what they were doing and where they were doing it.

The first census consisted of six questions. The first 3 were to be answered by house-to-house enquiry on 10 March 1801, or as soon as possible after that date. These questions established how many dwellings, how many people and what occupations they had.

The next two questions were addressed to the local clergy asking how many baptisms, burials & marriages had taken place. These covered the period back to 1700 in the case of baptisms and burials and back to 1754 for marriages.

The final question just asked if there was anything else the respondents would like to say.

The government sent out printed forms and the whole exercise was supervised by the Overseers of the Poor or “other substantial householders”.

The results consisted of numerical totals and did not include names. However, some local returns still survive giving names. The returns were affirmed before local Justices of the Peace by a certain date. They then went up the chain to the Home Office in London. The answers given by the clergy followed a different route and ended up with the Privy Council.

In 1811, the census asked the same questions, but with knobs on. It distinguished between uninhabited & building dwellings. The question about occupation was also amended. The clergy were asked to record the numbers of baptisms, marriages and burials registered in each of the ten years since the last census.

In 1821, additional questions were asked about the ages of the people. These were grouped in five year bands up to 20 & in 10 year bands after that.

In 1831 more extensive questions about occupations were asked. There were seven categories. Agricultural, manufacturing, retail or handicraft, capitalists, mines & fishermen, retired or disabled and finally, those employed as servants.

In addition, the clergy were asked to indicate the number of illegitimate children born in 1830.

In 1841 changes were made that are, in essence, still with us today. The returns included, for the first time, the names of the respondents. The carrying out of the census was handed over to the General Registration Office and the census was organised on tbe basis of the new poor law administrative districts.

The story of the British censuse is one of gradual change. It is also a story of a struggle between those who wanted to keep it simple (Home Office, GRO etc) and those who wanted to ask as many questions as possible. These latter including various scientific and social institutions as well as government departments. This struggle continues, as could be seen in the UK press last week.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Free Census checking software

Yet another volunteer checker struggling to get the checking software to work! We have repeatedly asked Free Census to sort it out but its like talking to a rather dim brick wall.

Here is a simplified way to do it:

Download WINCC

Save to desktop

Double click on icon

Unzip into c:\wincc. This folder will be the one suggested by WINCC. Say yes to creating a shortcut, it will take you to Windows Explorer. Drag the shortcut icon to your desktop.

Open WINCC & follow the instructions. Enter personal details - 4-digit code, first two letters of surname & first two letters of forename.

WINCC will then want to test the external drive. Normally it would expect to use the A drive, the floppy drive. If you don't have one, but you do have other removable media drives, WINCC will say it has detected more than one removable drive. Removable in the sense that you can put media in yourself.

Select one of these, but you must have something in the drive. Perhaps the best option is to plug your digital camera in and try selecting that drive. You must restart WINCC after plugging the camera in.

If you don't have any removable drives, then WINCC will just ignore the test requirement.

Once WINCC has a drive, it will create a small TEST directory. You can open this and play with it.

When you open WINCC you get the first record overlaid with the first household panel. You must tab through all fields on this household panel to get to the first record. You must check as you tab on both types of record. The second field is Ecclesiastical parish. If there isn't one, then enter a hyphen.

Don't spend a lot of time with the TEST directory, import the data zip under Options and try it out. You can import from the floppy drive A, or there is a folder in WINCC called ZIP. Copy the still zipped data file to that folder and import from there.

Remember that you can re-install WINCC and re-import the data file if things go wrong.

Pay particular attention to the BROWSE button; it will allow you to insert records, split households ect. Right clicking on the BROWSE screen brings up help.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

This week in Cornwall

Quite an exciting week in Cornwall!

On Thursday there was an earthquake roughly along the valley of the river Tamar. Cornwall is now an island! Associated with this on Thursday evening, a tidal wave swept in at Hayle – and West Penwith is also an island.

Temporary bridges will be placed over the Tamar chasm at the main former crossing points. There will a toll on traffic entering Cornwall with the money being used to reduce Council Taxes. Council Tax payers will be exempt from these charges. The King Harry ferry will serve West Penwith till we can afford a bridge.

A new swinging tax on holiday homes will be introduced next Wednesday. The money raised this way will be used to reduce Council Taxes.

The NHS institutions in Cornwall are to be controlled by a new governing body. Membership will be restricted to Council Tax payers and they will be elected by Council Tax payers.

Institutions of Higher Learning in Cornwall will be grouped together, although on dispersed sites, and will become the University of Cornwall. The Universities of Exeter & Plymouth will be told to mind their own business.

In future, anybody living full time in Cornwall and paying Council Tax will be entitled to claim they are Cornish. The rest will be known as “the English”.

Anybody suggesting that road signs etc should be bi-lingual will be asked to sign a legally binding form that commits them to paying for the changes.

The new French toxic waste plant will be moved to England. We shall use our rubbish to enlarge the Scillies.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 16

Hello folks

Sun is out in Cornwall; off up the garden for a cup of coffee and a cigar. Might even do some gardening.

If you imagine the COCP as an inverted triangle, we have transcribers at the top, forming the base, then checkers in the middle, then, right at the bottom, me. All pieces are validated by me. I like it this way, although it means a lot of work, because it gives me control of the project and allows the imposition of a certain style. If something is wrong, I can ensure that it's like that on all the returns - wrong that is!

There are two aspects to the errors I see. Firstly, there are some rather depressing repetitious ones. Irish county Chapman codes for instance. Secondly, there is the sheer ingenuity displayed by many volunteers, in inventing new problems. Congratulations!

I am just doing a Truro piece. There is a Mr James who is a Coal Merchant. Next door is another Mr James. This gentleman is a Cod Merchant. It certainly looks like Cod, but neither the transcriber or checker have flagged it up, so presumably they thought that in 19th century Truro it would be likely there was a Cod Merchant. Seems a bit specialised to me, so I changed it to Coal. In fact, the letter "d" often looks like "ol" or "al".

I might be wrong of course; if anyone knows of other Cod Merchants, let me know.

What other things have attracted my attention? If you want to put RN in the occupation field, please put a space between the R & the N, otherwise you'll upset the Fishheads by getting Rn.

Don't put in unnecessary notes. If you are unsure of a surname, a note on the head's record is good enough. I have to delete or edit all these notes.

Don't put in unnecessary flags. If there is no place of birth; then people are correctly entering UNK hyphen and then spoiling it by flagging it up.

Do use Google. I have just decoded a place name in Devon. The transcriber & checker quite rightly had it as Whitechurch Csquiggle. It is probably Whitechurch (or Whitchurch) Canonicorum. Google knew.

After validation it goes to Rick Parsons for post-validation. This is to remove all the errors that have survived the 3-stage process; a surprising number. He has asked me to point out to checkers that they are responsible for entering the Ecclesiastical Parish name. You must look at the top right hand entry on each page. Quite often, they change during a piece. If there isn't one, then enter a hyphen.

Finally (thank goodness you say!), please do drop me a line telling me how you are getting on. I hate it when I find out that someone has volunteered to do something but in fact, they have decided not to bother. I had someone the other day who thought I would have picked it up from the mailing list that he was off on his holidays and had therefore decided not to do any transcription!

Enough whinging. We are doing well; the end of the 1861 is in sight, followed by the 1851. Free Census has 8.5 million records online and 15% or more of those are ours. Congratulations to you all!

I apologise for the length of this!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Newsletter No 15

Hello folks

Free Census rebuilt their database on 11th October. We have:

Cornwall 1841 340901
Cornwall 1851 235008
Cornwall 1861 337103
Cornwall 1871 126063
Cornwall 1881 35116
Cornwall 1891 318637
Cornish total 1392828

This is 16.5% of the total FC upload of 8,454,662 returns.

As you will all know, we also have a search engine on the COCP web site. Here are the some of the stats for September.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Warwickshire Farewell

It is six years since, encouraged by the easy start-up of the Cornish 1891 project, I decided to run a similar project for the Warwickshire 1891 returns. At first, the project only covered the districts of Aston and Birmingham, because all my ancestral lines lived in Aston from 1845 onwards. But gradually, the project grew till it covered the whole of Warwickshire – 122 “pieces” that eventually produced about 780,000 records.

Each record has been transcribed, checked, validated and generally buffed up; finally being uploaded to Free Census and to the Warwickshire web site run by Pickard Trepess. Each piece was produced from a 3 or 4 fiche set, loaned to me by the Church of Latter-Day Saints of Jesus Christ – the LDS or Mormons. Transcribers, living anywhere from Hong Kong to Vancouver via Australia and New Zealand, transcribed the contents of the fiche set to produce a data file that was then sent to a checker. The checkers worked their way through the data, identifying and fixing errors. Finally, I validated the work, ending up with a data file for uploading to Free Census. This file also went to Pickard to convert to html for his web pages.

About 150 people worked on the project and a list will be published shortly. I would like to particularly mention Jeanagh Punter, who for several years worked as the project recruiter and Pickard, who not only produces the html files and hosts the web site, but for the early years was an invaluable help with “technical” issues. I do have another list, luckily a lot shorter, of those people who vanished with the microfiche set. I won’t publish that. An even sadder list is of the five people who died “in harness”; one of them only a couple of weeks ago. This last one, an Australian, had worked on the project from the very beginning. I owe him, and all the other the other volunteers, a great debt.

What now? First I shall cut a disc containing the data and send it to the Mormons, The National Archives and the Archive of Historical Data at the University of Essex. I might also send a copy to the various societies engaged in Warwickshire family history; although none of them have ever shown the slightest interest in the project. Then I shall settle down to a slow steady review of the lot – to try and eliminate some of the uncertainties and to incorporate the corrections that kind people have emailed in.

I am not going to do any more Warwickshire census returns, but I wish the organiser of the 1861 project all the best and hope that someone somewhere will be encouraged enough by my words to start up the 1871 project! Better than watching television!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Public Relations No 3

The Cornwall online Census Project aims to transcribe all the Cornish 19th century census returns and make them accessible online free of charge. You’ll find the complete 1841 and 1891 censuses for Cornwall already online at as is 83 per cent of the 1851 census, 96 per cent of the 1861, 35 per cent of the 1871, and seven per cent of the 1881. There area also three pieces (donated and unchecked) for the 1901 census.

Most of the transcribed records are also available at – the Free Census Project site.

The Online Parish Clerk scheme began in Cornwall about five years ago and has spread to Cumberland & Westmorland, Devon, Dorset, Kent, Lancashire, Sussex, Warwickshire and Wiltshire. Volunteers adopt one or more parishes and collect family history information about the parishes, offering free ‘look-ups’ for researchers.

You can now search a combined database at which contains around 330,000 records from the Cornish OPCs. At present, the information is mainly from Church of England parish registers, but Nonconformist registers and other records are expected to be included in the future.

Four volunteers are currently transcribing births, marriages and deaths from the 19th century West Briton and Cornwall Advertiser newspaper, plus court cases. Go to to view the transcripts.

[Published in the October 2006 edition of Practical Family History magazine]

Public Relations No 2

Cornwall is an unusual English county, not least because many people will tell you that it is not English or a county! It is also unusual in that it is further advanced towards becoming fully online, as far as family history research is concerned. As the organiser of the Cornwall Online Census project I thought I would let other readers know what online resources are available to Cornish researchers.

At the centre of Cornish online research are the Cornish GENUKI pages ( These provide links to anything and everything to do with Cornish family history. The pages are organised on a hierarchical basis and lead to some 260 town and parish pages and some more general pages. Normally GENUKI aims to use the county and parishes as they were in 1850 but these Cornish pages also include new parishes created towards the end of the 19th century. The Cornish GENUKI pages are constantly being updated, so it is worth checking them frequently.

We started the Cornwall Online Census Project in the summer of 2000, transcribing the 1891 returns from fiche supplied by the LDS. Within 18 months the first returns were online having gone through the process of transcription, checking and validation. By 1st July this year the 1841 and 1891 censuses were complete along with 90 per cent of the 1851 & 1861; 40 per cent of the 1871; and ten per cent of the 1881). The aim of the project is to transcribe all the Cornish 19th census returns and place them online free-to-view at

We also have an online parish clerk scheme, which started in Cornwall about four years ago and has now spread to half a dozen other counties. Volunteers adopt a parish or parishes and seek to accumulate information and data about their parish. Their primary aim is to offer free “look ups” for researchers, using via the Cornish mailing lists. The OPC scheme has now launched its own searchable online “free-to-view” database ( Starting just over a month ago it already has over a quarter of a million records online. At present it is concentrating on Church of England registers, but its scope will expand to cover non-conformist registers and other types of data (burials for example).

There are two Cornish mailing lists. The main Cornish list, Cornish-L, is for all things Cornish, while Cornish-GEN is a list strictly for family history. The Cornish-L list is home to the famous (or infamous) virtual Christmas party! Details of how to subscribe can be found at Rootsweb.

[published in November 2006 edition of Family History Monthly]

Public Relations No 1

Hello folks

I have just managed to get pieces about Cornwall online activities published in two of the three main UK family history magazines. Both pieces will follow this one. The first one was published as a letter; the second as a small piece. Both pieces are edited versions of my text.

My aim in this is twofold. First of all - there is no point in our doing all this work, if no one knows about it. Secondly, it might recruit more people to help us in our great task.

My aim in publishing the pieces on here is to encourage you all to try your hand in your own countries. Most of the English speaking world now enjoys any number of paper and electronic FH magazines. You don't have to slavishly lift my words, feel free to edit or rewrite as you see fit. But do have a go.

Don't forget to let me know if you have any success.



Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Newsletter No 14

Hello folks

In addition to taking a week's holiday, I am also struggling with computer problems. All my own fault as well. Much of the information I need access to is on the computer that is now in hospital; and as I expect it back every day, I haven't bothered to install it on this machine.

In spite of things generally, a considerable amount of work has been completed. Some five 1851 parishes have gone, or are about to go, online. Plus a similiar number of 1871 pieces and a couple of 1881. The 1861 is on its last three pieces.

On the wider scene, I have just finished the last of the 122 Warwickshire 1891 pieces. Only took six years. 780,000 records, all transcribed and online, for free.

I am hoping that the 1861 will be finished by the end of the year, followed soon after by the 1851.

It would be nice to hear from everyone!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

COCP General Instructions Pt 2

Project transcription software.

You are transcribing from discs lent to us by the LDS. The copyright is quite clear. Copyright in the images and contents of UK census returns is held by the Crown. The Crown has waived its copyright for the contents and licensed the copying of the images for commercial profit. Any transcription is the copyright of the transcriber, given that the Crown has waived its copyright. The transcriber can do with it what he or she likes, including giving it to Free Census. We have that in writing from the PRO.

Each transcriber will be supplied with five files. Three are browser files and tell you everything you need to know! There are also two spreadsheet files. Any spreadsheet will do. CENSDEMO shows you what your spreadsheet should look like when you have got going. The other is your working spreadsheet. This is a templated spreadsheet whose main effect is to prevent transcribers exceeding the set column widths.

If you are an Apple user or do not have a floppy drive, please contact me before you try start work.

When you open this spreadsheet, you will see that the first three rows are completed for you. The first has the piece number, the second has the column headings, the third lots of lower case letters. These are there to indicate to you the maximum width you are to work to in each column. These three rows must be left intact. The spreadsheet supplied is designed to stop you exceeding this column width.

It can be saved as a spreadsheet but as it gets larger you may need to do your backups as .csv files. Tell me if you do not know about csv formatting. You should do regular backups to floppies or some other medium. Please do not omit this precaution.

Bill O'Reilly will also conduct a ‘health’ check on your first six or so pages. Please do this because not only is it easier to catch mistakes early on, but it will let us know you have actually started. Just email your file to him. You can request these health checks at any time.

You will be allocated a piece to do although the disc supplied may have several pieces on it. This piece will have up to 3,000 records on some 150 pages. 1861 pieces are larger than those of the 1871. However, some of these pages will contain little or no data to be transcribed. How you do it is up to you. You can transcribe direct into the software or to paper.

Monday, August 28, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 13

Hello folks

The grandchildren have all gone; covered in salt, sweat & sand. Well, I was. They had their first taste of surf school and have already checked that they can come again next year. Throwing out the empties made me realise that we had also drunk a lot of wine! The adults not the grandchildren.

It has been reported that spring in Europe this year was about 4 weeks early - except for SW England, where it was on time. There is a faint touch of autumn about the weather at the moment in Cornwall - which suggests to me that Autumn is 4 weeks early!

Now I am up to my neck in census returns; Cornish, North Wilts AND Warwickshire. As Rick is away till later this week, nothing will be published for a couple of weeks.

A few pointers. Did you know that if you write RN in the occupation field, it will come out as Rn? You must have a space to make it capitalise. Text in the notes field does not capitalise. If you don't put in the capital letters, then you will get r n and I will have to alter it.

Some people are overdoing the abbreviations. You have 29 spaces, please use them. So "a" for acres, but 1m can be entered in full. It looks better, or at least, I think it does. If you are using a templated spreadsheet, then you only have 22 spaces for occupation. One of these days I will fix that. You can always use the notes field, but I would rather you got it all in the occupation field, as long as it makes sense and looks nice!

Indicates of rank etc, Esquire, Lord, Senior and Junior, are all entered after the forename. (Esq), (Lord), (Snr) & (Jnr) and so on.

I am going to publish the General Instructions on this blog, starting now. Please re-read them, especially the paragraphs on place born.



Sunday, August 06, 2006

NWOCP Newsletter No 3

Hello folks

Greetings from Cornwall, where the summer visitor is in full flood (see earlier COCP newsletter).

In our 8th month now and we are starting to see a steady flow of completed pieces. We have done and put online:

RG091275 Cricklade
RG101876 Highworth
RG101877 Highworth
RG101901 Calne
Rg101902 Calne
RG101904 Marlborough
RG101905 Marlborough.

Almost all the 1861 & 1871 pieces are being worked on, with a number being checked. Our first 1891 piece has been transcribed and I have a checker lined up for that. About a dozen 1841 parishes are transcribed and as soon as I can find some more checkers I will start pushing the 1841 for completion. Free Census have now produced the data file required for checking.

All our work is going online on and on the main Free Census online database. Please take a look at our web site and browse the stuff on this blog - there might be something for you!

Recently, a couple of volunteers have recruited relatives and friends; if you know someone who might be interested, please get them to drop me a line.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Advice for transcribers

Hello folks

Recently I asked two of our most experienced checkers for some general advice for transcribers. The second checker's comments are in brackets. They have both just finished very large 1851 pieces.

1. Since the programme (Excel) has a memory function, they should be careful using it. The transcriber must have spelled 'Louisa' as 'Lousia' the first time and never bothered to look at what he/she was typing after that. In the same way 'Ellen' showed up as 'Ellen Ann' after that.

2. Do use the resources of the net, et cetera when coming upon a strange name. I constantly had to go to 1841 or 1861 or 1881 to make corrections of names that were not all that difficult to read. [Michael: I use Google a lot, it will often give hits on place & personal names]

3. Be aware of gender - I often had a Francis, son, given as Female. (I find that if the transcriber misreads a name, then the rest of the tx'd data is often wrongly adjusted to match the misreading eg relationship & gender.)

4. Check birth towns. There is no Bugle in Cornwall but there is a Breage. [Michael: Six miles from where I am sitting is a village called Bugle!!!!!] (I just keep the GENUKI big/eng page open and refer to that. If it says Bugle CON, then it'll get checked as Bugle CON.)

5. If a transcriber comes upon an unreadable name and three lines later the same name is now written more clearly, go back and make the correction to the name instead of leaving the job to the checker.

6. If a transcriber wants to type in a wife's occupation as 'miner' or 'fisherman', he/she should realize that the occupation has probably been transcribed to the wrong person. (yes ... but if it's what the enumerator wrote (as is sometimes the case) then so be it.)

7. Do use software, where possible, to improve the quality of the original page - I use Adobe Photoshop to sharpen and improve the contrast. (Never yet needed to do it, but agree. With a flat screen you can often view it off angle to achieve some change of colour/contrast etc.)

(8. Quite often I find lines are transposed or translated mid-line (maths term ie shifted) ... I'm guessing that the transcriber is going down the page in columns, and I'm checking left to right. But it is a real pain with WINCC to put the lines back together again.) [Michael: This might be my fault - as I often advise transcribers to transcribe vertically]

(9. Also it might seem obvious but married couples usually tend to have similar ages with children aged at least 20 years less than the younger of the two. Yes I know there are exceptions, but it does beg a double check when transcribing.)

(10. Servants, lodgers, boarders, visitors, in-laws etc usually have a different surname to the main household.)

(But I do pity anyone battling with the fiche scans of 1851. They're very variable. Ancestry's done a much better job scanning at least, though their index is a little fanciful at times.)

COCP Newsletter No 12

Hello folks

First wave of grandchildren leave tomorrow morning; second wave arrives on Monday afternoon; 3rd wave the following Sunday. Even so, we have managed to keep the show on the road.

We are now down to the last five pieces of the 1861; might be finished in October. 25 of the 235 1851 parishes remain to be completed and about half the 1871. More of the 1881 is now being tackled, with a couple of new checkers arriving.

I would like to remind everyone that our aim is to reproduce what the enumerator wrote - "as is". Not what he should have wrote (it is nearly always a him); but what he actually wrote. If he has a 70 year-old woman with a five-year old son don't bother to flag it up or write me a note that it is obviously not a son.

On place of birth names, someone pointed out to me recently that it would be difficult to search for a parish name on the Free Census OLDB, because many of our transcripts (although "as is") have variations on the modern names. I am afraid that we are between a rock and a hard place on this one. Because we also put our returns online as texts, we don't believe this is an unsurmountable problem for researchers. And it is nice to leave them something to do......

Is everyone aware of C-PROP on ? Currently it has 326,931 parish records online - all FREE! We are concentrating on CoE records at the moment, but have also started to extract the data from the West Briton project. If you have any transcripts - why not send them in - we will sort them out for uploading.

This project is built on the use of emails. You can, and should, be dropping Kay or myself or both of us, an occasional line saying how things are going. Don't leave us in the dark. There is also the alternative of using Instant Messaging. There is an earlier piece on this blog about jabber. Try it out and you might get an instant response. You can use it for census queries or anything else. Do I, for instance, know your great aunt Ethel? You never know.....

If you have tried Google Earth, it has recently released v4. It has a really nice shot of Mitchell, my home village; you can almost see me waving from the top of my jungle (garden)



Thursday, July 20, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 11

Thick mist in my part of Cornwall and I am about to depart for England. About 7 hours of motoring misery - and that is only if I am lucky. Back online on Monday morning.

This week saw a couple of pieces uploaded, several more are in post validation and I have three pieces here ready to be validated. As I am going to England to pick up a couple of grandchildren, census returns are likely to be stacked for now!

Currently, we are within a month or so of completing the 1861, with only five pieces left to do. The 1851 won't be far behind and the 1871 is approaching 50%. This week we recruited three more people. They all want to be transcribers, but we don't have work for them. We are now in the end game period of the whole Cornish project - not just the 61 & 51. More and more volunteers must be persuaded to switch to checking; there are already plenty of 1871 pieces waiting for checking.

The big task is the 1881. We have a transcript of the whole of the Cornish 1881; it just needs checking. So everyone who sticks with us will have to try their hand at checking. You might ask why we are doing the 1881. Well, wonderful though the LDS version is, we are finding mistakes as we compare our transcript with theirs. Anyway - there is question of symetry! How nice to have the whole of the Cornish 19th century returns online!

Checking is less painful than transcribing - and I have tried both! You have to tab through each field of each record, looking closely at the transcriber's work. If you find mistakes - and you will - you fix them. If you can't, you flag them up for me to look at during validation. Checking is a vital part of the project and has to be done properly. It is not difficult - just hard on the tab key!

So - be prepared - a grovelling email will arrive one day asking that you volunteer to try checking.

The Free Census database was rebuilt on July 12th and the Cornish volunteers remain by far the biggest contributors to the nearly 8 million records now online.

Onwards and Upwards!

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

NWOCP Newsletter No 2

We now have our own web site ( courtesy of John Pope. On this you can see those pieces that we have completed – four 1871 and one 1861. The 60 or so pieces that make up the Nth Wilts coverage for those two years are all being worked on.

Most of the 1841 for Nth Wilts is also being tackled, with a steady flow of parishes arriving from transcribers. Finally, three people, equipped with microfiche readers, are working on the 1891.

Several people have joined the project this week, but we can always use more. If you have friends or family who would like to help out – drop me a line.

The next hurdle is to get the necessary data file constructed by Free Census, so that I can get checkers to work on the 1841. These will be posted by parish to our own web site.

Please stay in touch; don’t leave me in the dark!

COCP Newsletter No 10

Ann & Michael

This picture has nothing much to do with anything!

Slow week on the census front this week, with nothing much happening. So I have been busy with C-PROP stuff - the new Cornish Parish Registers project. Over a quarter of a million records online and rising.

If anyone wants to drop me a line and tell me your woes or good news - please do so!



The COCP and Birth place data

The guiding principle of the COCP is to transcribe “as is”. When applied to the place of birth data, this produces a slight problem. Many of the Cornish place names have a number of variations in spelling. St Hilary is a good example; there are about six different ways of spelling it and they can all come with or without the “St”. However, we are not conducting family history research; we are providing a tool for those people who are. They ought to be able to work out what the place name is on their own.

The book I often quote, by Edward Higgs, says that Cornwall is particularly prone to variations in place name spellings.

The enumerator’s instructions asked that from 1851 onwards, householders state the county and parish or town of birth. Frequently, the place named is a farm or other place, not a parish or town. Sometimes, even a street name or other address is given.

We just transcribe the enumerator’s words.

The enumeration instructions only required the county name for Irish or Scots. If, like me, you have Irish ancestors, this is particularly annoying. Its even worse when they just say Ireland or Scotland. For places like London, where all it says is London, this is treated as a county; just enter LND in the County field and a hyphen for place born.

Now for an innovation – a competition! There will be a prize for the volunteer who can explain to me why no one uses the Chapman codes for Irish Counties. It is not just the COCP volunteers, the Nth Wilts and Warwickshire ones are just the same. I am not sure what the prize will be for the best explanation – I’ll think of something.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Census Birth Place Data

The quality of the birthplace data in the 1841 census is far from satisfactory. The household schedule contained two columns for this information headed ‘Whether born in the same county’ and ‘Whether born in Scotland, Ireland, or Foreign Parts’. Householders were instructed to write ‘yes’ or ‘no’ in the first column. In the second they were to write ‘Scotland’, ‘Ireland’ or ‘Foreigner’. The latter designation only referred to those born outside the UK who were not British subjects. Those born abroad who were British subjects were to be entered in the firsts column with the word ‘No’. The number of British subjects born outside the UK but resident there in 1841 cannot, therefore, be calculated. The enumerators were instructed to abbreviate these entries when copying them into their enumeration books, using ‘Y’, ‘N’, ‘S’, ‘I’ and ‘F” respectively.

In 1851 more informative answers were required. In the case of those born in England, householders were to indicate first the county, and then the town or parish of birth. This order was to be followed in all subsequent Victorian censuses. In the case of those born in Scotland, Ireland, the British Colonies, the East Indies or Foreign Parts, the country of birth was to be stated. The term ‘British Subject’ was to be added to the latter where appropriate. Interestingly, Wales was not mentioned in the instructions on this matter until 1891, when the principality was treated in the same manner as England. Presumably the Welsh had simply been overlooked, and this may affect the form of some entries. Some other minor changes were introduced in the course of the century. In 1861 a distinction was to be made between ‘British Subject’ and ‘naturalised British Subject’. In 1871 those born in Scotland, Ireland, the British Colonies or the East Indies were to state the country or colony of birth; and those born in Foreign Parts the particular state or country.

One may have doubts as to the extent to which householders understood the instructions with regard to those born outside the UK, but those relating to people born in England, Scotland and Ireland appear fairly straightforward. It may be something of a surprise therefore, to discover that the chief clerk of the GR in 1910 said:

“the birthplace tables were probably the most inaccurate of any of the Census Tables but feared they could not be dispensed with as some people seemed to attach considerable importance to the figures. Not only did a great many people not know in which county they were born but a place which was now a town might easily have been a small village at the time of the birth of persons aged 20 years and upwards who were enumerated in other towns.”

Occasionally the grasp of British geography shown by households and enumerators was not strong. However, the 19th century was a period of great re-organisation in local government, and some changes in the county of birth may reflect boundary changes. There was also a tendency to record the place of residence, or the earliest one which could be remembered, as the place of birth. In institutions such as workhouses there appears to be a propensity on the part of some returning officers to give the location of the institution as the place of birth.

Making Sense of the Census Revisited by Edward Higgs. Copyright TNA

Sunday, July 02, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 9

During June the COCP uploaded three 1861 pieces, ten 1871 & one 1881 piece. Well, it will have any moment now! Another 1861 piece is in the works, which means we are down to the last five pieces of the census out of 89.

There are about 20 parishes of the 1851 left to do, out of over 200. All are being worked on and could be finished soon. We are still recruiting people but are increasingly starting them off on checking rather than transcribing.

This year should see the completion of the 1851 & 61 projects and Rick is already working on the 1861 disc. We are really rolling on the 1871 and should complete that by the middle of next year. The 1881 is a big task, but we have a complete transcription already and if people are willing to move over to checking, it shouldn't take too long.

On the wider front, Free Census managed a rebuild on 24th June and the COCP now has 1,254,528 records online with them. One in seven of the records they have are the product of the COCP and its volunteers. If only the rest of them would get on with as we do!

The Warwickshire 1891 project is nearly complete. The penultimate piece is about to go online, leaving only one piece out of 122 to be completed. The North Wilts project is speeding up with the 4th piece completed and online on its own web site.

The Cornish OPC scheme has its online db up and running with over 200,000 records already uploaded. If any of you have parish register transcripts, why not send them in? 10 or 10,000, all are very welcome.

Monday, June 05, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 8

Hello folks

The sun is shining in Cornwall! I should be gardening, but when I get up there I just sit and look at it all growing - weeds and plants!

While I have been away you have all been busy - three 1871 pieces and one 1861 have come in. They should all be online in a week or so.

Once a month, Rick produces stats for the COCP search engine. For May it never took less than 200 searches per day, and most well above that, several times hitting 400. This is a good indication of how much your work is being used - which of course, is the whole point.

The sister project of the COCP is C-PROP, the Online Parish Register Project. The database is now up and running and we have started to upload transcripts. At the moment we are trying to restrict use to the OPC scheme members, but I will keep you posted.

A subject that comes up quite often is the UK 2011 census returns. The National Archives have just said:

"The 1911 census is a huge document – more than 12 times the size of the 1901 census, with 35,000 volumes containing the details of our 35 million ancestors and occupying some 2 kilometres of shelving. They are in good condition and suitable for scanning, with less than 5 per cent requiring more extensive conservation work to be scanned safely.

By far the best option for providing access to the census is online delivery, making the returns available to the widest possible audience and preserving the integrity of the original records. Proposals are well underway to find the very best company to work with us in order to provide a good reliable service for millions of potential users. We have published our requirements in the Official Journal of the European Union and over the next couple of months will seek to create a shortlist of potential suppliers.

Learning from previous experience and building on our current plans, The National Archives is eagerly looking forward to launching the 1911 census online in January 2012."

These returns are the actual householder schedules; not enumerators' books. This is good news, because up to now rumour control has had it that this was mission impossible.

As this is so long, I will cut out the usual whinging! And just take the opportunity to thank you all again for all your support.

Onward and Upward!!!!!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Are your ancestors missing?

Regrettably the surviving census returns are not a full record of the population of nineteenth century England and Wales, and it may not always be possible to track down individuals, addresses and householdld These omissions reflect both under-enumeration at the time of the census, and subsequent loss or damage to the returns.

In the early censuses under the GRO, certain groups, usually those not living in conventional households, were simply not enumerated by name. These included the members of the Royal Navy on board ship in 1841, and possibly in 1851; all members of the merchant marine in 1841, and various sections of it thereafter, all fishermen afloat in 1841, and sections of this group thereafter; the crews of vessels engaged in inland navigation in 1841 and 1851; and all itinerants, travellers and night workers in 1841, and probably a considerable number of the same in later years. The soldiers serving abroad were never enumerated by name.

Undoubtedly, some individuals and households that should have been enumerated will have completely slipped through the census net. Some of these omissions might reflect clerical error as enumerators and households made inevitable slips in the recording or copying. A house might have been omitted, perhaps because it was unoccupied on census night, and the enumerator forgot to note it down as empty; a wife might have been absent because of an enumerator’s copying blunder; an elderly visitor might have been temporarily lost sight of; and so on. But in some districts, or among some social groups, it might have been difficult for hard-pressed enumerators to ensure that they had handed a household schedule to every family.

In the absence of any detailed research on the subject it is difficult to put a figure to such levels of under-enumeration. It should be noted, however, that post-enumeration surveys for the 1981 census indicated that 0.5% of households were missed in that census in the whole of England and Wales.

Some of the original returns, which were not always kept in optimum archival conditions in the nineteenth century, have been lost or damaged. Often such damage was confined to the backs and fronts of enumerators’ books, but more extensive gaps exist. Special returns, such as those for shipping, were often appended to the back of enumerators’ books, were especially liable to damage. In the 1851, all the ship returns seem to have been destroyed.

Making Sense of the Census Revisited by Edward Higgs. Copyright TNA

As far as the COCP knows, no large sections of the Cornish returns are missing, just odd pages here and there. Also, Cornwall was free of large urban districts, which are particularly hard to enumerate. However, the Cornish would have been heavily represented in the maritime returns that were not taken or which were lost in the earlier years.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 7

Hello folks

There are only 8 out of 89 pieces left of the 1861 and about two dozen parishes out of the over 200 parishes that make up the 1851. Should finish both before the end of the year.

We have just completed another 4 pieces of the 1871, which means we have done over 30% of that one. And the 1871 is my main topic today.

When we started the 1871 we were in the habit of sending multi-piece discs to transcribers. Obviously, we hoped you would do more than one, but it also saved on our considerable postal costs. It costs me about £2 for an overseas disc and £1 for a UK one. (these figures include the disc, packaging etc). I am not whinging about this - after all I am a volunteer!

We turn no one away, so we have a steadily increasing number of volunteers. So we are re-allocating pieces from multiple-piece discs. We try and keep everyone posted, but rely on you reading the emails!

We are also trying to persuade some people to try their hand at checking. This will continue to be a feature of grovelling emails from me! The next big task for us is the 1881. We are fortunate in having a complete transcription of the 1881 (don't ask). But it has to be reformatted for Free Census purposes and then checked. So we will end up needing to persuade you all to switch to checking for the final push.

I would like all 1871 TRANSCRIBERS to check in with myself or Kay; please give the piece number you are working on and a rough estimate of your progress.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Cornish Online Research

If you are a newcomer to online family history research in Cornwall, then your first port of call should be to the Cornish pages of GENUKI (x Not only is there a lot of information about the county in general terms, but each parish has its own pages. These pages also contain useful information, but perhaps more importantly, they all contain many links to other Cornish web sites. In particular to the Census Project and the OPC scheme.

The OPC (Online Parish Clerk) scheme was started in Cornwall about 5 years ago and has since spread to 8 or 9 other English counties. It could be called the “adopt-a-parish” scheme, but OPC sounded more interesting. Public spirited people step forward and adopt a parish or parishes. Their aim is to provide information and advice to anyone who contacts them. Some of them have their own web sites and some of them contain transcribed data, things such as parish registers. Others have their data hosted on other web sites and the scheme has its own web site ( which contains details of Cornish parishes and of the OPC themselves.

The OPC scheme is about to launch itself into a new project – C-PROP. This is the Cornish Parish Register Online Project and aims to get all 5 million Cornish parish register entries online free-to-view in a searchable database.

The Cornwall Online Census Project (COCP) is a sort of semi-detached part of the Free Census project. The COCP is busy transcribing ALL the Cornish 19th century census returns and placing them online. They are available on the Free Census OLDB ( and on the COCP web site ( The whole of the 1841 & 1891 are online plus most of the 51 & 61. The 1871 & 81 are also appearing.

There are of course, lots of Cornish web sites you might find helpful. West Penwith is perhaps the best (, but there are lots of others, including St Keverne (

Finally, there are the commercial sites, the national projects (FreeBMD for instance) and the Cornish Family History web site. I cannot speak for them, but you can easily find them via Google.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The governance of Cornwall

Two hundred years ago Cornwall was largely governed by Cornishmen living in Cornwall. There was, of course, a national government in London that made the rules, but the implementation and enforcement of these laws was mainly in the hands of Cornishmen. They were, of course, largely drawn from the upper and middle classes.

There were no district or county councils. The representatives of The Crown were here; they lived here amongst the Cornish. Lord Leuitenants, High Sherrifs and Judges enforced the laws laid down in London. At the lowest level was the Ecclesiastical parish, ruled by the local vicar. The parish had acquired various civil functions over the centuries, and the Vicar was constrained by law and by the elected Vestry. The Vestry was more or less self-selected from amongst the more prosperous inhabitants of the parish, but in the last resort they depended on the support of the parishioners.

From the time of the Tudors, the civil parishes (which usually covered the same ground as the ecclesiastical parishes) were given powers & duties governing the poor, the highways and petty crime. The system was supervised by the judiciary through the Quarter Sessions. At the same time, the manorial system was still around in many areas, with its own courts. The Court Leets & Baron were still meeting late in the 19th century and these appointed officials for such things as Ale tasting and Bread weighing. One of the chief officers was the Constable; he was responsible not only for local law and order, but for collecting local taxes such as the poor rate. Elected Parish Councils arrived in 1894, after the formation of County Councils.

Throughout the 19th century, the government in London refined the laws relating to social order and public good. New obligations and new rights were set out. But it is a mistake to see this entirely as a top-down process. There was pressure from the bottom to change things. A good example is the Poor Law Unions and the associated workhouses. The groans of those paying the poor rates forced the government in London to do something. The workhouses were sited, built, manned and maintained by local boards. There was a local board of governors and the jobs and the contracts to supply and maintain the workhouses were advertised in local papers.

By the end of the 19th century, elected County and parish councils had arrived. In the towns there were borough councils and in between the county & parish councils were Rural & Urban district councils. In 1830 Cornwall had more Members of Parliament than any other English county except for Wiltshire. These two counties had more MPs than Scotland! But in 1832, the reform act swept all that away and Cornwall was reduced to six. My own village had returned two MPs for 200 years. In the election of 1830 there were only 7 electors and they managed to elect three MPs instead of two!

In spite of constant change, much of the basic structure of Cornwall remains the same as it has been for a thousand years. Although I live in the modern district council area of Carrick; it covers almost the same ground as the ancient Hundred of Pydar. The parish of Newlyn East has been where it is for over a thousand years. The village of Mitchell is first recorded on paper in a court case of 1234 AD. The four local Domesday Manors of 1086 are still the sites of farms today.

Since the 1980s there has been increasing centralisation with more control going to outposts of the central government in regional authorities. The South West one lives a long way from Cornwall. The police force merged with that of Devon and the fire service is to be controlled from Taunton in Somerset. Even higher up, more and more power is shifting from London to Brussels and the County Council now has an office in that city.

Whether the shift from Cornwall to Swindon, London & Brussels is a good thing is an argument for another day!

COCP Newsletter No 6b

Second newsletter covers the "end game' situation for the 1851. This looks worse than the 1861, but these are parishes, not pieces and many of them are quite small. Same request as before - if anything looks wrong, drop me a line.

Otterham HO5a1898 being transcribed by Lauren Patey
Tintagel HO5g1898 Transcribed, allocated to David Trounce for checking
Lanteglos by Camelford HO5h1898 transcribed
Davidstow HO5j1898 Transcribed, allocated to David Trounce for checking
St Clether HO5k1898 Transcribed, allocated to David Trounce for checking

Maker HO5a1900 ED1 online; rest being done by Gillian Johnson
Rame HO5b1900 being transcribed by Mike Beck
St Germans HO5f1900 being checked by Arthur Hodge

Menheniot Ho5a1902 being transcribed by Hazel Labka
St Cleer Ho5b1902 being transcribed by Nick Russell
St Neot Ho5d1902 being transcribed by Ainslie Jones
St Pinnock Ho5e1902 being transcribed by Lauren Patey
St Keyne Ho5f1902 being transcribed by Lauren Patey

Duloe Ho5b1903 Being transcribed by Brian Hulme
Morval Ho5c1903 being transcribed by Nick Russell
Lanteglos-by-Fowey Ho5h1903 Transcribed, waiting for checker
Boconnoc Ho5k1903 Transcribed, waiting for checker
Broadoak Ho5l1903 Transcribed, waiting for checker

Bodmin Ho5l1904 Transcribed, waiting for checker
St Kew Ho5p1904 Being checked by Di Thompson, more or less ready
Endellion Ho5q1904 Being checked by Di Thompson
Egloshayle Ho5s1904 Being checked by Di Thompson

Fowey Ho5a1906 being transcribed by Lauren Patey
St Sampson or Golant Ho5b1906 Transcribed, waiting for checker
Tywardreath Ho5c1906 being transcribed by Lauren Patey
St Blazey Ho5d1906 Not allocated

St Stephen in Brannel Ho5e1908 being transcribed by Sharon Strange
St Mewan Ho5f1908 Transcribed, waiting for checker

Kenwyn Ho5e1910 being checked by Mark Hattam
Tregavethan Ho5f1910 being checked by Mark Hattam

St Stithians Ho5a1914 Being transcribed by Vivienne McRitche
Gwennap Ho5b1914 being transcribed by Fiona Russell

Redruth 221069 1915 Ho5a1915 Being transcribed by Vivienne McRitche
Gwinear Ho5b1916 Transcribed, waiting for checker
Gwithian Ho5c1916 Transcribed, waiting for checker
Phillack Ho5d1916 Transcribed, waiting for checker

Towednack Ho5d1917 Transcribed, waiting for checker
St Ives Ho5e1917 being checked by John Nance

COCP Newsletter No 6a

Hello folks

We are now in the "end game" period for the 1861. Here is my list of what remains to be done, given that 1527 & 1557 have now gone online:

1522 Anthony, being validated now
1525 Saltash, being transcribed by Joy Hungerford
1528 Liskeard being checked by Denise Ravenhill (ex-WAR, not yet started)
1540 Padstow, transcribed, waiting for checker - Chris Uphill?
1542 St Columb, transcribed, waiting for checker
1544 Newlyn, online except for ED2, which is going to be transcribed by Celia Wikert, I hope
1578 Gwennap, being checked by Marion Paul
1579 Redruth, being transcribed by Shirley Franklin, about halfway
1580 Redruth, transcription just started by Tina Russell, already one third done by Barbara Schenck.
1583 Camborne. ED1 transcribed by Sue James; she is now finishing it off.
1584 Phillack, being transcribed by Carrol Parfitt
1590 Marazion, being transcribed by Jim Rusk
1591 Penzance, being checked by Kathy Keyes.

If anybody disagrees with this, please drop me a line.

This past week we have uploaded RG112315 Falmouth plus 2246 & 2248 from the 1871 and the two 1861 pieces I have mentioned. I should get 1522 finished this weekend, especially if it rains!

Free Census has finally managed a rebuild and their stats show us with 1,119,221 returns online out of a global total of 7,395,113.

Monday, May 01, 2006

NWOCP Newsletter No 1

The North Wiltshire Online Census Project (NWOCP) started about three months ago and now has about 40 volunteers. It is a subordinate project of the main Wiltshire project, which is run by Terry Waters-Marsh, who is also the England co-ordinator for Free Census.

I decided to do it because the Warwicks 1891 project is nearly finished and I have personal ties to North Wilts. I also wanted to demonstrate how a project could be run - there are a lot of whingers around, continually moaning that there are no transcribers or checkers to be found. So I chose a small compact area; to make it a worthwhile size, we are doing ALL the 19th century census returns at once. Or nearly at once.

Currently the project is working on the 1841, 61, 71 and 91 census returns using discs and fiche sets supplied by the LDS. Recently we have produced our first piece and this is now online with Free Census. Once the 61 & 71 are done, I intend to start up the 1851, then the 1881.

Part of my plan is to have a project web site. One of your number is busy constructing web pages that will host the project. There are a number of advantages in this, not least that completed returns would get online in a couple of days instead of a couple of months. But its main purpose is to foster a sense of identity amongst our volunteers and researchers. The returns will be displayed as texts and the transcriber/checker teams will have their names in lights.

Each of our census years has about 30 pieces. Some 17 have now been transcribed with most of the others being worked on. One piece has been completed and half a dozen are in the checking stage. Mainly, these are 1861 & 71 pieces, but the first 1841 parishes are now rolling in.

We have got off to a good start; all that is needed now is for you to keep plugging away, nibbling at the task we have volunteered to do!

Warwickshire online census returns

The Warwickshire Ancestors' Project (WAP) started just over five years ago. Initially, the project just covered the urban areas in the parishes of Aston and Birmingham. The rest of Warwickshire was covered by a joint Free Census/BMSGH project known as Rural Warwickshire. However, the organiser of Rural Warwicks got disinterested, and his project was absorbed into the WAP, making a total of 122 pieces.

The 1891 project is now nearly complete, with only two pieces to go. When it is finished it will have about 800,000 records online. These can be searched on the Free Census OLDB and on the web site belonging to Pickard Trepress. (

About 4 years ago, a commercial company produced the images of the Warwickshire 1841 census returns on disc. One of the 1891 volunteers, Wendy Boland, recruited volunteers who had purchased the discs for their own purposes. In the face of indifference and hostility from Free Census, she achieved the amazing result of completing and placing online the whole of the 1841 online in two years. Over 400,000 records! The final stages of this project were greatly accelerated by the arrival of the ACDB discs of the 1841. These records are also available on Pickard's web site.

Wendy has now got cracking on the WAR61 returns, using discs supplied by the LDS.

COCP Newsletter No 5

The 1861 could be finished before the end of the year! With a bit of luck and some more hard work by the far-flung volunteers of the COCP.

At the moment, there are three 1861 pieces going through validation etc and these should be online within a week or so. The rest are as follows:

Being Transcribed:

1525 Saltash Joy Hungerford
1540 Padstow Jean Cochrane
1579 Redruth Shirley Franklin
1584 Phillack Carrol Parfitt
1590 Marazion Jim Rusk.

Transcribed, waiting for a checker:

1542 St Columb (just done by Celia Wikert)

Being checked:

1528 Liskeard Denise Ravenhill
1578 Gwennap Marion Paul
1583 Camborne Chris Uphill
1591 Kathy Keyes

1580 Redruth is partially transcribed. Needs another transcriber.

There are 89 pieces and so, when the 3 in progress go online, there will be 11 left.

If any of the people named don't agree they are doing what I think they are - please drop me a line.

The 1851 is also in sight of the end and might also be finished before the end of 2006. Over 30% of the 1871 is online and the rest is underway. Another piece of the 1881 is here being finished and will be online soon.

On the wider front, pieces sent to Free Census have not been uploaded since 23rd February. If anyone asks you - tell them that the COCP coverage is both more extensive and more up-to-date. Our approach to this whole business is much more professional than theirs.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Transcribing Cornish Parish Registers

The three basic tools of Cornish family history research are the registers of Births, Marriages & Deaths; the census returns; and the parish registers. The first two are coming on nicely, so we would like to turn our attention to the parish registers.

Recently a well-known Australian traveller has discovered what many of us have known for a long time. The records bequeathed us by our ancestors are often faded, damaged, badly written and poorly reproduced. They also, in the main, have to be viewed on antiquated equipment.

We would like to get the Cornish parish registers transcribed and placed online free-to-view. It has been estimated that there are 5 million records in the Cornish parish registers. In spite of hard labour by quite a few people, the surface has hardly been scratched.

I don't know how you are dealing with parish registers, but many of you may do what I do. I usually transcribe any that look as though they might be useful. So, looking for ROBERTS in Coverack in the late 18th century, I find there are 5 families, but only one is mine. So I transcribe the lot including any in surrounding parishes. Just in case. These transcripts can be used by us.

If you have got the film at your local FHC, it's worth the time to transcribe anything that might be yours - however remote. If you have bought parish registers on fiche and have extracted your ancestors, why not get some added value and help other Cornish researchers to find their ancestors?

It doesn't matter how many you have done, 10 or 10,000, just send them in. Nor do they have to be sequential or provide complete coverage, just send them in.

Those transcripts, however incomplete, can be added to the pile. 1 or 10,000 - they can be used. Ideally, we would like you to transcribe to our prescribed layout - this can be seen on But we don't insist on this.

How will they be used? There will be a new OPC online database - searchable & free-to-view. We have several hundred thousand records already - so five million shouldn't take long. Our policy on distribution and ownership is that of the COCP. The information belongs to no one and everyone. Bit like the Cornish motto really.

Obviously we need another confusing set of initials - so we have decided on the Cornish Parish Registers Online Project - C-PROP. It even has a motto - Send us your dead!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Things that are crossed out or added

The census pages are littered with words crossed out; words added, and various markings that often obscure the enumerator's valuable words. We have to make sense of them.

The alterations fall into two groups. Those that seem to have been made at an early stage, perhaps by the enumerator or the registrar. Typical of these are where the enumerator has described someone as a pauper. This was not required to be entered, but it often is. It is then crossed out; either by the enumerator or the registrar, who was supposed to check the returns before they were attested to and sent off to London. With these alterations, the data should be entered with a note stating that it was crossed out. If you can get this into the occupation field, well and good, if not, enter it as a note. Where records (including whole households) are crossed out, enter them with a note. Even if they should appear elsewhere; they may not - and what is lost?

The second group of alterations appear to have been made much later; probably by the clerks in London. Typical of these are those found in the place of birth field. They have inserted a county where only a place name is given. Sometimes it is obvious they are right, other times you wonder how they could possibly have known. We stretch the "as is" concept here, and you can enter the county they suggest if it looks right to you. When they don't know the answer, they often write ALS; I have no idea what this means. Sometimes, when the age is given as N K, someone has entered an age in round numbers next to the age column. This is best entered as a note as we have no idea who entered it and why. One of the reasons for the census was to work out the size of the agricultural and other industrial sectors. By 1891 there was quite a complex system of classification; they can often be seen in the occupation field; we ignore them.

Transcribers & checkers have to make a judgement on what is to be included. If information looks good but is crossed out, enter it with a note. If it looks like a later addition, ignore it except where it is covered above.

Finally, there are the markings that add nothing to the data. Typical of these are the annoyingly thick strokes through ages; presumably made as the clerks grouped the population by age. We just have to work through these.

Census Taking in Cornwall - No 1

Each Registration District was divided into sub-districts and each sub-district had a number of Enumerators. The Enumerators were recruited for a particular census and were generally of the opinion they were underpaid for what they were asked to do. In 1871 the pay scales were as follows:

A fixed fee of one guinea.
2s6d for each 100 persons in their area above 400.
6d for every mile above the first five miles covered in delivering schedules.
6d for every mile above the first five miles covered in collecting the schedules.

The local registrars were responsible for keeping track of changes in their district and for dividing it into roughly 200 household pieces. Each of these would have an enumerator and the authorities hoped to recruit men of local standing who would undertake the job as a social duty.

“He must be a person of intelligence and activity; he must read and write well and have some knowledge of arithmetic; he must not be infirm or of such weak health as may render him unable to undergo the requisite exertion; he should not be younger than 18 years of age or older than 65; he must be temperate, orderly and respectable, and be such a person as is likely to conduct himself with strict propriety, and to deserve the goodwill of the inhabitants of his district.”

Each enumerator was supplied with a set of household schedules, an enumerator’s book, and an instruction and memorandum book. This latter was used to order the houses, mark down where houses were being built or were uninhabited, and to keep a check on whether or not they had collected all the schedules distributed. These books do not appear to have survived.

When collecting the schedules the enumerators were to assist in completing the forms. They then copied them into the enumerator’s book. These books were supposed to be checked by the local registrars. Finally, the books arrived in Whitehall, where clerks extracted the data for statistical purposes.

Making Sense of the Census Revisited by Edward Higgs. Published by University of London in conjunction with TNA.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 4

Hello folks

Since the last newsletter, we have uploaded:

St Minver Lauren Patey (Aus) & Di Thompson (UK)
St Veep Jane McDonnell (US) & Di Thompson (UK)
Trevalga Lauren Patey & David Trounce (Can)
St Teath Lauren Patey & David Trounce
St Erme Sue James & John Nance (both Aus)

1541 Padstow Tina Russell (UK) & Maxine Cadzow (Aus)
1558 Truro St Clement Louise Haywood (Estonia) & Marion Paul (Aus)
1594 Penzance Ceilia Wikert (USA) & Chris Uphill (Aus)

There are five pieces in the queue here; at the moment I am up to my armpits in Warwicks stuff - only two more pieces to go out of 122!

For those of you who have signed up to jabber; the chat room server is now rather than The name is the same. To those of you who haven't tried it - it will give you one-to-one with me or entry to the chat room. There is nearly always someone there who will look up a difficult entry for you. Please give it a whirl - if you don't like it don't use it. But try it. Details of how to get signed up are on an earlier post in this blog.

Found a new "old" occupation today - Hokey Pokey maker. If this sounds familiar - try looking at

In fact, it was a type of ice cream sold by street vendors.

Here in Cornwall it is a cool dry morning; rather overcast. The forecast is good and I am expecting to get some gardening done. I hope that you all have a happy Easter.



Tuesday, March 28, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 3

Since the last newsletter we have completed (but possibly not yet uploaded):

St Austell*
St Minver
St Veep
St Columb Minor*

1559 Kenwyn
1585 Phillack
1855 St Agnes

2321 Illogan

The 1851 pieces with asterisks mark completed pieces that have also gone to Free Census. Here is a notice of interest to 1851 volunteers:

Missing Images from the 1851 CD set from (Gordon Beavington): There have been at least two separate releases of this CD set and we have discovered that there are images missing from both these sets. If you are transcribing or checking an 1851 piece and find that you are missing a page then don't worry as all may not be lost!

The first place to check is Bill O'Reilly's 'Online Briefcase' at

There you will find a directory called 'CON1851 Census' and Bill has (as of 26th March 2006) 35 files of 'missing images' (and even whole enumeration districts) that he has obtained from Gordon Beavington. Note that one of those files is called 'Instructions-please read' - please do read these instructions before downloading any of the files!

If the page you need is not to be found in the briefcase then please contact Michael, Kay or Bill who will look on their own sets of CD's to see if they have the image.

The last sentence really applies to all years: We have all the discs, both commercial & LDS; plus we have access to, so if you are stuck, drop us a line. You will get an image or an answer within hours. Especially if you use jabber - our instant messaging system. Why not try it out?

The COCP web site has been revamped using a design by Myra Cordrey (OPC co-ordinator) implemented by Rick & Kay. Please check it out - comments (& pictures) are more than welcome.

Free Census has just restated the position on entering overseas birthplaces. We shall stick to what it says in the COCP General Instructions & this blog.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

What is a parish?

Originally the parish was more a collection of rights than a specific area. Before the seventeenth century the parish existed for ecclesiastical purposes as the area under the jurisdiction of a clergyman with the cure of souls. With the establishment of the Elizabeth Poor Law in 1597, the parish began to acquire secular functions, in this case the relief of the poor. Parishes which existed before 1597, and which thereafter had secular as well as ecclesiastical functions, were called ‘ancient parishes’.

‘Civil Parishes” were administrative units which only had secular functions, and were commonly defined as areas for which a separate poor rate could be assessed. The existence, alteration or abolition of these units had no effect on the ecclesiastical arrangements of the locality. Many civil parishes were areas at first subordinate to a mother church which had come in time to enjoy independence, such as hamlets, tithings, townships, chapelries and liberties. If a separate Poor Law rate was levied in the subordinate unit, it could be called a ‘hamlet’, ‘township’, and so on, and/or a ‘parish’. In order to avoid confusion the 1866 Poor Law Amendment Act required that these areas should be called ‘parishes’. Many extra-parochial places had already become civil parishes in 1857.

From 1597 onwards ‘ecclesiastical parishes’ were established for purely ecclesiastical purposes. They were more numerous than civil parishes, especially when efforts were made to build new churches in urban areas where the population was increasing. Many ecclesiastically subordinate areas within parishes, such as chapelries, were raised to parochial rank, and many formed which had no previous status. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries a number of statutory provisions allowed the creation of many different types of ecclesiastical or ‘new’ parishes. It was not unusual for a parish to be refounded to gain privileges and rights conferred by newer statutes.

Making Sense of the Census Revisited by Edward Higgs. Published by University of London in conjunction with TNA.

News from the Homeland 15th March 2006

Thursday is the day the main weekly local papers arrive. In our household we take the Truro edition of The West Briton AND the Newquay edition of the Cornish Guardian.

Last week, the main item of news was about the only general hospital in Cornwall - Treliske in Truro. In spite of their no-doubt excellent financial controls, they have ended up 8.1 million pounds overspent. The Chief Executive and half a dozen other top managers have been taken out into the car park and shot! No they haven't. Instead they are closing wards and operating theatres and sacking 300 people. We are at the end of a nine year experiment in hosing the NHS down with money and it doesn't seem to be working.

The row over the waste incinerator rumbles on. This week the papers named the four potential sites for this thing. They are all, as forecast, in and around St Dennis. I am taking a closer interest as one of the sites is only 3 miles from this computer. Luckily, it is to the east of us and the wind is usually from the south west!

The lead story this week is the arrests in Truro of a couple of East Europeans engaged in running a brothel or pimping. Not what one expects in a respectable Cornish town like Truro - but only to be expected with all these virile daffodil pickers in the county.

The Eden Project is hoping to start a third biome soon - a desert one I think. To celebrate their fifth anniversary, they are offering a year long passport ticket to residents of Cornwall for only five pounds. Shame I bought mine in January! The Eden Project is a good place to take your visitors if you have any. We take the grandchildren ice skating in the winter and to the "jungle nights" in the summer.

Finally, in the autumn, Duchy Opera is staging a mega production of "The Wreckers". Set in Cornwall, this opera hasn't been performed for about a hundred years. I have a vested interest because my wife is the minutes secretary to the ruling council of Duchy Opera. So I get to hear all the news. There is to be a large scale effort involving the Cornish schools as well as the actual production.

Friday, March 10, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 2

This week we have completed 2321 from 1871(Karen Duvall & Sue McNelly); 1559 from 1861(Tina Russell & John Ford) and St Austell from the 1851( Julia Mosman, Myra Davey, David Trounce & John Nance). The latter means that another complete 1851 piece is done and can therefore be uploaded to Free Census as well as our own web pages. These should all be online in the next week or so.

Here I go again - place of birth. Aids to working out what the enumerator wrote. More of us have broadband and are thus able to run various useful web sites as we work. These can be used to help in deciphering personal and place names.

The first and most obvious is Google. Just type in "St Tiller" and see what happens. Nothing! But you might be luckier than that. Even if the place name is still wrong, you can leave me a useful little note. Recently I had a record that gave some saint's name I had never heard of. But Google threw up a farm in the parish I was looking at that had the right name. Google is also good for personal names & occupations.

Second most obvious site is OURS! The COCP web pages contain over 1.2 million records. There is a search engine and who knows - we might already have encountered your difficult-to-read name.

A site for out-of-county names is Free Census. With nearly 7 million records online the name you are seeking might be there.

A site with zillions of names on is the LDS site. Only one of our checkers uses this to confirm tricky personal names (that I know of) and it is free & fast.

You can always check with me. I have the OS Gazetteer in paper form; every name that is on the OS Explorer maps is in it. I also have a file containing large numbers of Cornish place names - you can have a copy.

Finally, a suggestion from a new transcriber. Insert an extra column in your spreadsheet and enter the jpg ident as you start each page. You can delete the whole column when you have finished.

Of course, with all these aids, you must keep in mind that you are trying to combine speed with accuracy.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

COCP Newsletter No 1

Good morning from Cornwall

We continue to make good progress; about a dozen pieces were uploaded in February. Roughly speaking, we have completed about 70% of the 1851 & 1861 and 25% of the 1871. Although little effort is being put into the 1881 project so far, we have uploaded about 6%.

On the wider front, Free Census now has nearly 7 million records online; we have contributed over 1.1 million of these. Of course, we have done more than this as we have a lot of records on the COCP site that have not been uploaded to Free Census as yet. On my other projects; Warwicks 91 & Nth Wilts, the Warwicks project is nearly finished, with only six pieces out of 122 remaining to be done. Nth Wilts has barely started, but has 40 volunteers beavering away.

It seems the LDS are planning to digitise and place online many of the records they have filmed over the years, including the parish registers. These will be indexed and this will take a long time. In Cornwall of course, the OPC scheme is already busy doing a full transcript of the Cornish parish registers.

Now-a-days, we don't seem to have many major problems on the COCP; do I sound sad? Well, I am not. However, one of the areas that slows down validation in particular is the place of birth field. I am not sure that everyone understands what is required of them.

We aim to reproduce what the enumerator wrote. Nothing more, nothing less. So, while it is nice that someone works out where St Tiller is (I wish I knew); the result of their detective work isn't going to appear online. It will have to be St Tiller. It does help me if it is difficult to read but you have left a note suggesting what it might be.

There seems to be an enduring tendency not to use the Chapman codes for Irish & Scots counties. This is not just a Cornish thing; the WAR91 volunteers are just the same. They are there and should be used. Please.

The Free Census instructions are quite clear - above all - write down what is in the field! So if the enumerator writes N K or Unknown, please put it in. Only if the field is empty do we break the "as is" rule and we put a hyphen to show that we have looked and the field is empty.

The overseas birth question is a Free Census mess. The COCP has tried to get it made more sensible but have failed. Please read the paragraph in the general instructions about how you determine if a person is OVB or OVF.

Amongst the posts on this thing, there is one on communications. This project is built round email; I am always pleased to hear from you with a small update on your progress; or just to say hello. You can also use instant messaging. You don't have to use the chatroom, but the system will give you instant one-to-one with me if I am online, as I usually am during UK daylight hours. You can pop up and ask me to look at an image; I am quite good at deciphering these things, as you would expect after six years! Give it a try, if you don't like, you can just ditch it.

Thank you all for your continuing support.



Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Starting up with the COCP

Your disc has arrived plus far too many instructions and a pre-formatted spreadsheet. What next?

First, the disc. The LDS-supplied discs contain lots and lots of jpg files. Each one is a page and each one has to be opened individually. Acrobat Reader does not work with them. Probably the best thing to do is download the free software IrfanView. This is a Paintshop-like piece of software that enables you to manipulate the images.

How you transcribe is largely up to you. Some people transcribe to paper first, but most probably transcribe straight into the spreadsheet. A number of you are printing the images and transcribing from them straight into a spreadsheet. You can transcribe horizontally or vertically. Personally, I always do it vertically, a page at a time. I do the forenames first, then the surnames and then work to the right. Finally I fill in the details to the left of the surnames. You may find it easier to transcribe at least your first six pages onto paper and then input them into the spreadsheet.

The spreadsheet comes to you formatted as.csv (comma separated variables). We use this because it reduces the size of the files and this matters because all files are sent by email on our project. It should open in the most common WP spreadsheet programmes, MSWord and MSWorks. It you can’t get it to open, launch your spreadsheet programme and try to open the file from within the programme. If all else fails, let me know and I’ll resend the file formatted so that you can open it.

Once you have it open, resave it as a normal spreadsheet. Forget about .csv till you have completed the task.

A major problem is squeezing everything into a 15” screen. Irfanview will allow you to reduce the size of the image area being displayed. The spreadsheet can be seized by the bottom right hand corner and made smaller. The luxourious solution is the one adopted by me – I have two flat screens hooked up to my computer. However, I was lucky in that a computer I was discarding had a 15 inch flat screen and all I had to do was buy a second video card.

Other people are running a laptop alongside their desktop. And at least one volunteer is using a TV as a second screen.

Your first target is to produce six pages for a "health" check. Do read the Field Descriptions and the General Instructions. The answers to most questions are in them.

Good luck!