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!

Friday, January 27, 2006

News from the Homeland

The main news from EUSWR(C) this week concerns the County Council's reported decision to spend FIVE HUNDRED MILLION POUNDS on a waste incinerator. Apparently, they are about to award a 30-year contract to a French company (spit!) to build and run a state-of-the-art waste incinerator somewhere in Cornwall. Currently, St Dennis seems to be the prime candidate for this treat. They are not, surprise surprise, too happy about this.

The County Council and the French company are adamant that the emissions from this plant are completely safe. Suggestions that in that case it could be sited in the grounds of County Hall were dismissed by the authorities. The French company of course will be a long way upwind.

You might wonder why we need to burn waste; why not just dump it in some of the large holes that litter the Cornish landscape. Well, the EU has a directive on waste disposal, and as the rest of the EU is short of holes, it has to be recycled or burnt. The end result is that, after suitable gold-plating by the Cornish government in Truro and the Scottish government in London, the Cornish tax payers are going to have to pay for this vast new enterprise. And breath in the fumes as well.

St Dennis is about five miles from where I sit and is the home of the europhile MP, Matthew Taylor. Ironic really. It is said that the plant will be served by a lorry every two minutes, or was it every 20 seconds? In fact, it seems likely that to be efficient it will have to import English waste!

You couldn't make it up!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

"Health" checks

The ‘Health Check’

Transcribing census records is not difficult but it is vital that the information is transcribed in the standard FreeCEN format. This is why we carry out a ‘health check’ at an early stage so that we can check that the transcriber has understood the instructions and is entering the right information, in the right format, in the right place!

What we ask transcribers to do is to transcribe about 6 pages and then send their spreadsheet to me, Bill, at bill.or@btopenworld.com so that I can take a look at the file format to spot any misunderstandings. I’ve been doing this for more than 2 years now and I can confirm that, so far, no one has ever got the format 100% correct!!

I will send you a detailed response explaining what is wrong and how it should be corrected and I have built up a pick-list of ‘standard transcription errors’ to save me typing the same text over and over again. Some of the common errors are as follows:

Folio Numbers

The folio numbers are incorrect or missing. You’ll find the folio number in the top right hand corner of every other page. This folio number applies to the page on which you see it and the next one. They look ‘different’ as they were stamped by hand during the binding process.

Schedule number and Address

This should be completed for the first (and only the first) entry for each schedule – even if the enumerator has spread the address over 2 lines.

Continuing Schedule/Address

If a household spans two pages and the enumerator has repeated the schedule number and/or the address at the top of the second page then do not enter this in the spreadsheet. The reason is that the schedule number and address must only be entered against the first member of the household and if you repeat it then it splits the household.

Relationship to Head

This is a six character coded field and there is a list of the standard abbreviations in the documentation. If you can’t find the list then let me know and I’ll email you a copy. Thus an entry of, say, ‘Mother in law’ gets transcribed as ‘Mtrlaw’. Watch out for Brother, Servant, Boarder, Visitor etc as they are all 7 characters and get transcribed as ‘brothr’, ‘servnt’, ‘boardr’, ‘visitr’.

Long Occupations

Watch out for occupation entries that are too long as these will cause me to have to edit each one myself! There is a column width guide in row 3 but this is only useful if you have set the font for your spreadsheet to be ‘Courier’ or some other fixed width font. A common occupation problem is one such as ‘Farmer of xxx acres employing x men and y boys’. This can be abbreviated to ‘farmer xxx acr empl Xm+Yb’. If it still will not fit then you can use the notes field as a continuation.

When you get a reply from me after the health check please don’t think that I am telling you off! My only desire is to help you transcribe the records in the right format so that I have as little work to do as possible when you have finished transcribing and send me the file to prepare for the checking stage!

Monday, January 16, 2006


The Relationship field allows six characters. The standard rules apply. Start by removing vowels. Will it make sense?

There is a standardised list, appended below. However, it is not possible to cover all eventualities and common sense should apply. If you have produced a previously unheard of abbreviation; then expand it in the notes field. As with every other field, we now have 1.2 million records online; a browse through them might resolve your problem.

adopted adoptd
apprentice appren
assistant asstnt
Attendent Attend
aunt aunt
Bar Maid Brmaid
Chief Nurse Chfnse
Companion Compan
cook cook
boarder boardr
brother brothr
brother-in-law brolaw
cousin cousin
daughter dau
dau-in-law daulaw
father father
father-in-law ftrlaw
granddaughter grndau
grandfather grnftr
grandmother grnmtr
grandson grnson
Great Grandson Ggnson
Great Grand daughter Ggndau
great aunt gtaunt
great uncle gtuncl
governess gvrnss
half-brother hlfbro
half-sister hlfsis
head head
Housekeeper Hsekpr
House maid Hsemad
husband husbnd
inmate inmate
lodger lodger
Maid Maid
mistress mstres
mother mother
mother-in-law mtrlaw
nephew nephew
niece niece
Nightwatchman nghtwh
nurse child nrschd
Officer Offcer
Officer's Wife Offwif
Passenger passgr
patient ptient
pauper pauper
Porter porter
Porter's wife ptrwif
prisoner prisnr
pupil/scholar pupil
relative reltiv
servant servnt
shopwoman shpwmn
sister sister
Sister-in-law sislaw
son son
son-in-law sonlaw
step-brother stpbro
step-daughter stpdau
stepfather stpftr
stepmother stpmtr
stepsister stpsis
stepson stpson
stoker stoker
stranger strngr
traveller trvelr
uncle uncle
visitor visitr
wife wife
Wife's father wifftr
wife's mother wifmtr
wife's dau wifdau
wife's son wifson

You will notice that we have replaced Ma & Pa with Mtr & Ftr. I don't want anyone backtracking, both versions are acceptable.

Shipping Returns

Most of you will not come across shipping returns; however, Cornwall being Cornwall, lots of pieces do have a few ships in them.

Shipping returns are covered in the general instructions, but it is obvious that the information is not getting through.

Usually, ships have two types of pages; both should be photographed by the LDS. One is the crew list, which you treat just as you do any other page of returns, except that it usually has the Master’s signature on the bottom. This might be important if the Captain is not on board. It also has the ship’s name at the top, sometimes useful if you cannot read the name on the other page that should be photographed.

The second page is the schedule front page. We don’t see these pages normally because we are transcribing from the enumerator’s returns and these are the actual householder schedules. So the Captain’s signature is the genuine article. There is a lot of information (usually) on this page that can be extracted. The address is the ship’s name plus its home port, written as (Elizabeth) Fowey. Any schedule number will be at the top of the page and will be issued when the forms are picked up, probably in another port. The ED number is nearly always zero, but has a suffix, 2 for RN vessels and 8 for merchant navy or fishing.

The tonnage & type plus any registration number can be entered in the notes field. In the central block is the Captain’s name. If he is not on the crew list, create a record for him anyway. Bottom right on this front page is a small block showing how many people are ashore. Enter this in the notes as well. Sometimes names are given here. If they are and if they are not on the crew list – create records for them with the data you have.

If the returns give the ship’s position at sea, then try and fit it in the notes. If you don’t have room on the Captain’s record, then you can put it in one of the other records. The crew list page will have a folio number, but probably not a page number. The Civil Parish is usually given on the lead in page, which you may not have. You can always ask me, I might have it.

The aim is to extract all the information there is and fit it into our format. Imaginative use of notes is the order of the day!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Things you might not know about Cornwall

1. The Duchy of Cornwall & the county of Cornwall are not the same thing. Most of the land owned by the Duchy is outside Cornwall.

2. The Prince of Wales does not own the Duchy, he holds it from The Crown because he is heir to the throne. He cannot touch the capital value, he gets the income. Most of this income is re-invested or used for "good works".

3. The Cornish do not pay for the Duchess of Cornwall's hats. The happy couple get no money from the taxpayers, Cornish or otherwise.

4. The only Cornish people who pay the Duchy anything are its tenant farmers. The Duchy has the reputation of being a progressive and caring landowner. The Prince is known as an enthusiast for sustainable farming.

5. All poverty is relative. There are poor people in Cornwall just as there are in Sidney. No one knows if the inhabitants of Cornwall that have Cornish blood are poorer than those without Cornish blood.

6. About 50% of the population of the county probably have Cornish blood. The only people who seem to have a problem about this are the "western ghetto-ists". The rest of us rub along quite happily.

7. Cornwall enjoys democracy; we have all sorts of elections. What these elections show is that the voters of Cornwall are conservative with a small c. They have elected Liberals as their representatives for a long time now and don't seem likely to change. The nationalist party, the MK, regularly polls low numbers.

8. The most noticeable thing about the Cornish is that they are just like the rest of the UK.

9. I think the Cornish share my view that we (UK, British, English or Cornish or from the planet Zog) should not atone or apologise for anything. Nor do we think Australians should give their country back to its original inhabitants.

10. The trouble with opinions is that they are just that - opinions.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Notes & Abbreviations


The transcriber has two options for leaving notes. He or she can construct a text file called Mynotes, which will be viewed by the checker. In addition, there is a column in the spreadsheet, Y, which will hold 44 characters. This is my preferred option; by abbreviating where necessary, a lot can be got into 44 characters.

The checker sees both these lots of notes, but cannot delete or edit them. The validater sees the column “Y” notes and the checker’s notes. The checker can leave notes in the WINCC notes field. Both lots of notes trigger a stop for the validater. However, the validater does not see the Mynotes file, just that one existed.

During validation, the transcriber’s note field is transformed into the database notes field. This appears on both the COCP web pages and in the Free Census OLDB. The validator can delete, edit or add to this field as the fancy takes him, or her. Both transcribers and checkers are encouraged to leave notes; but please judge whether they are really worthwhile. What worthwhile means is entirely subjective – you have to make that decision.


A general rule on abbreviations is to remove the vowels first and see how it looks. The basic rule is – does it make sense? A secondary but important point – is does it look OK? Does it look neat or clumsy?

There are two main fields that use abbreviations – address and occupation. In the address field you should use the standard abbreviations such as Rd for Road.

In the occupation field you can have 29 characters. Start by removing vowels. You can use standard abbreviations such as Ag Lab and Dom Srvnt. Take a look at what you have ended up with and see if you think if it will make sense to the average researcher. A fairly common one is “Farmer of 200 acres employing 2 men and a boy”. This reduces down to” Frmr 200a emp 2 men 1 boy”. If necessary you can use the notes field to expand on what you entered in the occupation field.

You shouldn’t have to abbreviate personal names, but if you are pushed for space in the forename column, then use initials and expand them in the notes column.

The relationship field only allows for six characters. There is a table of suitable abbreviations in the Free Census field descriptions. An expanded table will be published by the COCP shortly.

Try and avoid abbreviating in the place of birth field. Better to split the information into two sensible bits and place one in the notes field.

Finally – take the time to browse the COCP online pages. The chances are that someone else has already encountered the problem you are struggling with.